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04 June 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
Prof Cathryn Tonne
Air pollution not only costs lives, it costs money too. Pictured is Prof Cathryn Tonne presenting a guest lecture on air pollution at the Bloemfontein Campus.

Health effects associated with ambient air pollution (AAP) have been well documented. Subsequently, the relationship between pollution and financial outcomes have also become a focus for case studies globally. An Environmental Research journal article revealed that “low and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected by the global burden of adverse health effects caused by AAP”. 

A high price to pay

In 2012, high concentrations of air pollution caused 7.4% of all deaths, costing South Africa up to 6% of its Gross Domestic Product. According to the recent International Growth Centre study conducted by senior University of Cape Town researchers, this is a direct consequence of the country’s heavy dependence of fossil fuels, a source of health-damaging air pollution and greenhouse pollutants.

Stunted human and economic growth

These South African statistics are attested to by Prof Cathryn Tonne who recently presented a guest lecture on air pollution which was hosted by the University of the Free State (UFS) Business School.

“Air pollution can affect economic development through several pathways, and health is an important one. Air pollution is linked to shorter life expectancy, chronic disease, asthma exacerbation and many other health outcomes that result in absenteeism from work and school. These have large direct costs to the health system.” 

Prof Tonne says that air pollution exposure in children is linked to reduced cognitive development, with important impacts on human capital. As a result, children are not reaching their full potential in terms of neurodevelopment, which has an effect on their income prospects and the economy as a whole. 

Resolving a looming disaster

Technology may be employed to radically clean the air. Cities need to lead in the reduction of air pollution by promoting renewable energy, using active transport such as walking or cycling, and investing in infrastructure to make this safe and attractive. 

With researchers playing a major role in strengthening the case for aggressive air pollution control, the government needs to implement policies in order to control sources of air pollution. This global health and economic issue also requires individuals and communities to play their part to improve air quality.

News Archive

Universities can contribute to economic transformation
2010-01-27

At the lecture were, from the left: Prof. Neil Heideman (Acting Dean: Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences), Prof. Hartmut Frank (University of Bayreuth, Germany), Prof. Bianchi and Prof. Jan van der Westhuizen (professor in Chemistry at the UFS).
Photo: Mangaliso Radebe 


Universities have a role to play in economic transformation and industrial development according to Prof. Fabrizio Bianchi, the Rector of the University of Ferrara in Italy.

This was the core message of his lecture on the topic Globalisation, Agriculture and Industrial Development that he delivered at the University of the Free State.

He said after the collapse of the agricultural industry in Italy as a result of the subsidies that the farmers were receiving from the government, the university had to step in.

“This was meant to maintain high prices and maximize the production but in the long run this approach created problems because the farmers were no longer producing high quality products but large quantities in order to receive subsidies,” he said.

“The result was that the government itself had to destroy those poor quality products. This was a completely unreasonable way to manage the economy”.

He said they had to abandon that approach and concentrate on quality because they realized that Italy could not match the prices and the quantity, in terms of production, of countries like China and the USA.

He said “knowledge and human resources” were the key factors that could get them out of that crisis; hence they came up with what he called “the Made in Italy approach”.

“We were working on the idea that food is part of culture and that it is not just simply for refueling the body,” he said.

“One of the fundamental ideas was to come back to the idea that production is the centre of the development process.”

“Quality is a very complex, collective issue,” he said. “You cannot understand development if you do not understand that you have to base it on strong roots”.

This approach resulted in the formation of several companies with specialized niche markets producing high quality products.

His visit to the UFS coincided with that of the 1991 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Prof. Richard Ernst from Switzerland, who was also part of the fourth presentation of the Cheese fondue concept.

The main thrust of this concept is that technical advances alone are insufficient for an agreement to be reached on the minimum respect between the various groups and individuals within a society. It proposes that for this to be achieved there has to be a concurrent development of empathy and emotional synergy.

Media Release
Issued by: Mangaliso Radebe
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2828
Cell: 078 460 3320
E-mail: radebemt@ufs.ac.za  
27 January 2010

 

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