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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

UFS on the right track with transformation - Fulbright scholars
2010-08-27

 
Pictured from the left, are: Dr Wilmore-Schaeffer, Rev. Dr Streets and Ms Leah Naidoo (Senior Administrator of the Institute).
Photo: Mangaliso Radebe

“I think the university is not only on the right track but can really become a model for how to negotiate certain difficult processes, such as transformation, within a short period of time. I think it can become a model, not just for other universities, but also for the world.”

This was said by Dr Rozetta Wilmore-Schaeffer, who together with Rev. Dr Frederick J. Streets, recently worked with the International Institute for Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice at the University of the Free State (UFS) as Fulbright specialists. They helped the institute come up with ideas in terms of making the changes that are necessary for the transformation of the university.

“There is a great deal that has already been done despite the sense of urgency and impatience, and I think there is a great deal more to be done,” said Dr Wilmore-Schaeffer.

“I think this sense of urgency comes from those who are involved in the process of looking at the destination, the place that they want to be at, and feeling that they are very far from it.”

During their visit here the two had numerous conversations with both staff members and students.

“I have been most impressed by the students who I think are ready to make changes in many different ways – I am talking about students of all racial groups and gender. The fact that they are referring to transformation as ‘their struggle’ shows that they are prepared to make changes,” said Dr Wilmore-Schaeffer.
She, however, cautioned that there were those who were still against transformation taking place at the university.

“I think there is still some resistance from some quarters on both sides of the fence and I would expect that at this point in time. I think what is really hopeful is that there are so many students who are ready to make the changes, who are making the changes, who are struggling with issues around making the changes; and I think that is really the hope for the university and the hope for the future,” she said.

“The resistance is complex,” added Rev. Dr Streets. “It is around a fear for the future, the loss of identity on the part of both black and white students, and the desire for cultural continuity amongst white students as well as amongst a variety of ethnic black students.

“The resistance is about learning that you are not the only kid on the block anymore and how you then overcome the feeling of realising that you are not the dominant person anymore and that your culture is not the dominant culture anymore.”

They have given a preliminary report of their findings to the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, Prof. Jonathan Jansen, which will be followed by a more detailed report later on.
 

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