Dear Editor

I pay the rent

Following your report on Selebi, noseweek’s editor was interviewed on radio by Moneyweb.

Afterwards the Moneyweb crew had the following exchange amongst themselves:

Moneyweb: And now noseweek has pulled out a guy called Steven Ferrer. Any relation to Ivan Ferrer maybe?

David Shapiro: I don’t know. Ferrer is not a common name, but I remember the shop well.

Moneyweb: Peter Prinsloo (chief executive of Hyprop) you were telling us off air that there was an interesting event.

Prinsloo: Yes, but I can’t say if it’s the same guy; if so, I hope he comes and pays rent.

Moneyweb: There can’t be too many jewellers in Rosebank who skipped the country in 2000.

I did not skip the country owing money for rent. Everything was settled before I left. In full. Steven Ferrer Atlanta, GA. USA

Just what the ladies need

Congratulations on landing Prendini Toffoli’s column! It’s just what the ladies need when we can get our hands on the husband’s noseweek at the end of a day. Hilary’s edgy social commentary brings an exhilarating sparkle to the magazine – just what the doctor ordered. Ann Wallace-Brown Cape Town

Drivel and gossip

Okay, enough. On what grounds do you assume that readers are at all interested in the sort of “who wore wot” drivel and gossip associated with Style magazine?

I had thought to remonstrate immediately, but we’re all busy folk, us noseweek readers. But this is now the third such blot on the landscape of my treasured mag. Your other regulars are all stars and reliably trot out topical, pithy pieces. It’s not personal, but HPT you are The Weakest Link – goodbye. Ingrid Luyt Hogsback

Prendini Toffoli is a star in her field. You say you’re not interested, you like your tea without sugar. So, I’ve a deal to suggest: you just skip those two pages without giving them even a glance – assuming, of course, that you can resist the temptation. – Ed.

Global warnings

I bought my first noseweek to see what NoseArk would say about Leon Louw and the Free Market Foundation, of which I’m a councillor. Global warming is one of many interesting issues rather tangential to fundamental freemarket concerns, and does seem rather emotionally divisive. I’m no expert but I happened to plough through two relevant tomes a year ago. One was Michael Crichton’s moderately entertaining novel State of Fear, chock-a-block with graphs that tell pretty much whatever story one might prefer.

The other was Global Crises, Global Solutions in which opposing groups of experts (coordinated by Bjorn Lomborg of Skeptical Environmentalist fame) examined costs and benefits of tackling various big issues. As a chilly Scot I may have grown up favouring higher temperatures before we intervene with new, cheap technology to clean up the atmosphere. As a libertarian humanist holding no brief for or against big business I’d love FMF to tap many small bits of funding from some of the billions of consumers who benefit from globalising capitalist prosperity.

Meanwhile it’s unfair to well-meaning sponsors that NoseArk accuses them of implicitly taking sides regarding some current issue. How might any think-tank function without largely unconstraining funding from wellwishers? Keep up the work, good and not so good! Jim Harris Honeydew

Greenhouse gas

NoseArk (nose89) fired a sarcastic broadside at much of corporate South Africa for financing the Free Market Foundation and its climate change denialist position. It missed the point.

There are facts which indicate real changes in greenhouse gases and climate. There are also computer models which regularly need revision whenever their predictions fail to match the facts. Such mismatches fuel uncertainty, keeping the debate alive and encouraging those for whom, according to Al Gore, the “truth” is “inconvenient”.

What we need to explore are the motives of the two camps: the climate change “denialists” and the climate scientists who do the research.

Libertarian think tanks are funded by big business. Their expertise is strong in economics, politics and philosophy but deficient in the natural sciences. [Really? Why should that be? – Ed.]

They are passionate about reason and freedom. They are suspicious of dire warnings from the climate change lobby because they know that politicians have a vested interest in scaring the public into allowing them more clout to deal with the issue. [Another way of saying the “Libertarians” are afraid that dealing with the problem might actually cost them money? What if climate change just IS scary? And don’t politicians generally have a bigger vested interest in keeping their financial sponsors – big business – happy, rather than in scaring their voters? – Ed.]

At the end of this road the libertarians see global dictatorship. That they succeed in soliciting funds from business could be because businessmen, as producers, employers and creators of wealth, understand more than most how devastating the consequences would be of a global slide into authoritarian government. George Monbiot (in his book Heat) states his rule for deciding who to believe: “Trust no one who has something to sell.” Leading scientists acquire prestige among peers by being awarded large grants and elected onto committees, which have the power to influence world affairs. Whether they admit it or not these scientists have a vested interest in scaring the public since it is public opinion which ultimately determines how much status and funding will be conferred on them by politicians. However well-meaning climate scientists might be, their economic naïveté commonly rivals the inadequate comprehension that most people, including economists and politicians, have of climate science. We should try better to understand both positions and acknowledge that the climate change debate has a philosophical dimension, includes angels and scoundrels on both sides, and may only have just begun. Martin Fey Milnerton

You are probably right in your conclusion – but your sympathetic description of the “libertarian” position omits to take into account that pollution is by definition a social and therefore political issue, rather than one of individual choice and right. Even your description of businessmen as “creators of wealth”, implying the production of something useful to society, is largely antiquated. Some of the wealthiest people today use their power to corner/dominate/control a market, rather like old-style speculators, enabling them to simply appropriate wealth, rather than having to create it. The anti-libertarians, it could be said, fear another sort of global dictatorship: the dictatorship of the anti-social rich, resulting in the perpetual deprivation of the vast majority of people. – Ed.

Ignorant Ark

Your environmental correspondent is scientifically ignorant and hides behind a nom de plume. In his spiteful and ill-informed piece on climate change (nose89), he launches cowardly attacks on people who do not show blind faith in the global warming hysteria.

On the one hand, there are the scientists and a great body of scientific evidence showing that there is nothing unusual about today’s climate and no reason for alarm. On the other hand, there is a large congregation of pressure groups, big media, politicians and vested interests screaming that manmade climate change will bring catastrophe. The latter rely on fear and denigration rather than scientific argument. Their aim is to spread alarm and to vilify anyone who questions it.

Far from being a large group of scientists in search of the truth, the IPCC is a highly politicised mixture of scientists, bureaucrats and activists. The technical reports of the scientists are filtered, spun and sometimes distorted in summaries for policy makers, to make sure that the correct message of alarm goes out. In its 3rd report, the IPCC tried to deny the existence of the Mediaeval Warm Period, which has been confirmed by scientific study and historical record. This is abuse of science for political ends.

If you want to know what genuine climate scientists think, you should read a petition by 60 of the world’s leading scientists which says: “Climate change is real” is a meaningless phrase used repeatedly by activists to convince the public that a climate catastrophe is looming and humanity is the cause. Global climate changes all the time due to natural causes and the human impact still remains impossible to distinguish from this natural “noise.”These scientists include professors of climate science at the world’s leading universities. Andrew Kenny Noordhoek

PS: Since I support nuclear power and earn money from it, and since nuclear power over the full energy cycle releases among the least greenhouse gases of any energy source, I have a vested interest in promoting the global warming scare. However, because it is scientifically unsubstantiated, I cannot do so. [Except sometimes? See Mr Nose – Ed.]

“Cowardly”, “blind faith”, “pressure groups”, “vested interests screaming” – is this the new vocabulary of science? You are correct in pointing out the ideological agendas that
are behind much of the debate.

NoseArk is the name of a column, not the pseudonym of an individual. The intention is to produce a polemical – but well-informed – column that informs a wider, non-scientific readership and stimulates debate about environmental issues as they affect us all. You are yourself widely known for your pop-polemical articles written in a tone of authority on various subjects in which you are not an expert, e.g. climate change. (If you’ll indulge a bit of bitchiness, you could sign a column Noseall and get away with it.)

For example, to counter concerns about rising CO2 levels, you have written: “Man has pushed CO2 up from about 280 ppm in the 19th Century to 390 ppm now. CO2 has averaged 3,000 ppm since the Pre-Cambrian period, so the levels now are extremely low in the life of the Earth.” This is plain nonsense in the context of this debate. Modern civilisation based on settled agriculture has arisen in the last 10 000 years – the climate in this period is what our societies have learned to deal with, and what is important to us. When the Pre-Cambrian ended about 542 million years ago there weren’t even any reasonably complex multi-cellular organisms around, much less plants or animals as we know them today!

See our next issue for more on that. – Ed.

Pilot error

I know that much of noseweek’s attraction is in the fun we get from lampooning the pompous, the venal and the self important – but why aero modellers (nose89)? I am surprised at the cheap shots fired by Marike Roth – building and flying remote piloted aircraft is a highly skilled craft requiring extremely high hand-eye coordination. Compare this with 30 men stampeding around an inflated object, intermittently collapsing into struggling heaps. Millions of hours get squandered, not just doing it, but sitting around watching it. Games seem pretty silly if you look at them critically. Why pick on model aeroplane hobbyists?

I’d love to know what Roth does for a hobby.
Ian Fraser Garsfontein Pretoria

My guess is she knits, surfs the web and smokes pot. – Ed.

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