Rush Limbaugh tells tall tales about trees

It takes a deliberate string of lies to maintain the position that humans aren't altering and harming nature. College dropout and former disc-jockey, Rush Limbaugh, is a professional in that realm. This page covers just one example of Limbaugh's ecological anti-knowledge. He shows no remorse for his fabrications and only corrects them with more disinformation. If someone tells a whopper about one topic, their angle on related topics is usually corrupt, e.g. "global warming is a hoax."

Here is how Rush Limbaugh lied in response to FAIR's documentation of his ignorant 1994 claim about U.S. forest acreage:

Limbaugh's initial lie: "Do you know we have more acreage of forest land in the United States today than we did at the time the Constitution was written?"

Fact-check by FAIR: "In what are now the 50 U.S. states, there were 850 million acres of forest land in the late 1700s vs. only 730 million acres today."

Limbaugh was off by 120,000,000 acres or 187,500 square miles; an area larger than Utah and Colorado combined. This shows his general ignorance of Man's impact on nature; no surprise, with him being a Creationist. When called on his first acreage lie, he gives a vague rejoinder and uses another disinformation technique.

Limbaugh's response: "Enormous tracts of trees were destroyed by settlers in this country, without being replanted. Today, reforestation is a critical component of the U.S. lumber industry. Furthermore, with increasingly sophisticated measuring methods, the more sure we are about the rapidly increasing rate of forest growth in the continental United States. These are the current facts: In 1952, the U.S. had 664 million acres of forest land. In 1987 the number had climbed to 731 million acres, according to the most recent numbers available in the U.S. Statistical Abstract, 1993-1994 edition..."

On the surface Limbaugh is statistically correct, but when his cited table is examined, another story emerges. Below is the exact data from the American Almanac Statistical Abstract of the U.S., 1993-1994 (comments are added to clarify the point). The data is also available in greater detail from the U.S. Forest Service. This table lists widely spaced years but the trend fits what ecologists have long known about population growth and timber demand. Renewable doesn't mean inexhaustible. By cherry-picking a time period, Limbaugh pretends that forested acreage has made a steady recovery.

 YEAR   TOTAL U.S. FOREST ACREAGE (contrast with 850 million in 1700's)
 ----   ---------------------------------------------------------------
 1952   664 million acres (initial reference point) 
 1962   759 million acres (replanting efforts pay off temporarily)
 1970   754 million acres (decrease of 5 million acres)
 1977   737 million acres (decrease of 17 million acres)
 1987   731 million acres (decrease of 6 million acres)

Limbaugh uses 1952 as a starting point so that 1987 will look like a gain, but an honest observer would have discussed the trend of losses from 1962 onward. Continuing with another segment of the same table, it's obvious that timber resources in the western U.S. have steadily declined, which explains timber companies' desire to cut virgin forests in the Pacific Northwest. But Dittoheads will always blame resource shortages on environmental regulations. There can be no such thing as man-made scarcity in their egocentric world.

 YEAR   (wood suitable for cutting)        (live commercial tree species)
 ----   --------------------------------   ----------------------------------
 1952   1,878 bil. board ft.               361 bil. cu. ft. 
 1962   1,795 bil. board ft.  (decrease)   361 bil. cu. ft.   (stable)
 1970   1,713 bil. board ft.  (decrease)   355 bil. cu. ft.   (decrease)
 1977   1,637 bil. board ft.  (decrease)   344 bil. cu. ft.   (decrease)
 1987   1,601 bil. board ft.  (decrease)   327 bil. cu. ft.   (decrease)

Total loss of forest acreage between 1962 and 1987 was 28 million acres, although actual volume of timber in certain parts of the country has increased due to denser replanting techniques (a factor that has obvious limits). Trees cannot continue to grow faster and faster on fewer and fewer acres to keep pace with growth-induced demand. The tables above only go to 1987 but the overall losses continue, as should be expected with rampant population growth and housing-starts. People may cite specific regions where forests have been replanted, but the world as a whole is losing forest cover. It's no different than mowing a lawn faster and faster, vainly hoping to get a growing supply of grass clippings. Industry propaganda about everlasting "managed forests" ignores the law of diminishing returns in the face of rising demand.

It's true that forests in the eastern and southern U.S. have made a comeback, but only because demand is being met on a larger scale from other sources. Beginning in the 1930's, the timber industry was forced to shift its operations from the South to the Pacific Northwest for the simple reason that too many trees had been cut in states like Georgia. Limbaugh likes to cite regions that happen to be growing more trees than before, after suffering huge losses in decades past. It's like saying there can be no water shortage if you take it from someone else's well.

Limbaugh's motives for being a serial liar are not subtle. Because of his political and religious beliefs, he refuses to see that perpetual economic growth isn't leading us to the promised land, and that Man is capable of making serious mistakes. Most of what Limbaugh says about ecology is based on the Creationist concept of nature owing Man a living via supernatural authority. Anyone who says otherwise is a socialist or pessimistic doomsayer. The fact that he knows he's lying about scientific evidence says volumes about his character and that of his audience.

Limbaugh's attempt to blame environmentalists of all people for the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill was hypocritical to the point of meriting jail-time. He claimed that the Deepwater Horizon explosion could have been set by eco-terrorists, analogous to Michael Crichton's denial novel, "State Of Fear." Then, he claimed that efforts to block land-based drilling (e.g. ANWR) had pushed oil exploration into riskier offshore conditions, thus the Sierra Club and similar groups were culpable. But, those who cite vast onshore reserves are ignoring the 1970 peak in U.S. oil production. Very few fields outside of Alaska were left untapped for environmental reasons. The first fields to peak were obviously land-based sites, due to easier access. Offshore drilling was the inevitable way to maintain the flow, with deeper, riskier wells as ocean-based fields also peaked. Limbaugh had always favored drilling in any location where oil might be found.

Had the BP oil leak (which echoed the 1979 Ixtoc blowout) not directly affected blue-collar jobs and tourism, Limbaugh would probably have shown little concern for the deaths of marine animals. Recall his "born free" radio bits that mocked endangered species. His ilk only feigns respect for nature when they can use it as a political weapon. It's the same attitude of those who deny the impacts of overpopulation, yet subliminally acknowledge it by telling environmentalists to kill themselves and lighten the load. As a faith & ego based philosophy that rejects scientific evidence, modern conservatism is by necessity full of double-speak and misdirection.

Limbaugh and other half-wits like Hannity, Beck, Savage & Boortz, should be held criminally liable for the delays they have injected into national science policy by means of influencing voters. The obscene salary Limbaugh draws for "enlightening" gullible people would be better spent on improved science education. But, Limbaugh is just a symptom of a larger, anti-knowledge, Creationist/dominion attitude toward nature. Half of Americans polled still doubt evolution and other building blocks of modern science. They lack the intellect to truly respect what's keeping them alive.

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