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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

A real indaba it was
2010-09-07

Pictured from the left, are: Prof. Dennis Francis (Dean), Prof. Rita Niemann (Director: Postgraduate Studies and Research) and Prof. Rob Pattman (Keynote speaker: UKZN).

No expert panels! No rubrics! Only a fair measure of healthy anxiety that goes with public speaking!

These features describe the meeting that staff members from the Faculty of Education recently had at Indaba Lodge on the banks of the Modder River. The purpose of this get-together was to create a time and space where staff members could not only celebrate their own research efforts, but also acknowledge, support and validate one another’s work.

The day kicked off with the dean’s research vision for the faculty. Thereafter seven staff members doing their Ph.D.s were introduced. Their presentations were followed by inputs from the guest speaker, Prof. Rob Pattman from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). He congratulated the presenters on their cutting-edge research, their eloquence and the manner in which they managed to communicate complex matters in simple ways. Ideas he shared from his own research on social identities and critical agency (with a focus on gender and race) served to affirm the relevance of the topics presented by the Ph.D. candidates in transforming the education system as well as the South African society as a whole.

A festive lunch, in honour of retiring Prof. Johan van Staden, brought an affective dimension to the Indaba in the form of heart-felt goodbye messages from colleagues who had shared his academic life for more than 20 years.

After lunch five master’s students had the opportunity to share their research in the form of poster presentations. A lively interest among participants and critical, but constructive questions characterised this session. A potpourri session followed, comprising work in progress, completed surveys, research awards and innovative research methods.

The wrap-up by Prof. Dennis in no uncertain terms affirmed that researchers in the Faculty of Education not only crossed the Modder River, but also the proverbial Rubicon on 21 August. It was envisaged that henceforth:
- Supervision will take on a collaborative character.
- Soon a research forum for Ph.D. students and their supervisors will be established where these students and supervisors can start practising their agency.
- Instead of relying on outside experts who come and “tell” faculty staff members what to do, insiders should start building their own vibrant research-based practices by forming reading groups to discuss seminal works (e.g. Foucault and Freire) and research methodologies (e.g. Burke’s Pentad).

The Indaba was aptly concluded by one of the participants who, on behalf of all attendees, thanked and congratulated the dean on the initiative to give impetus to research. Analogous to the 2010 slogan, Feel it, it is here!, he said: “I feel so inspired and empowered, I can almost taste it!”
 

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