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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

Dr Oprah Winfrey praises our university
2011-08-24

 

Dr Oprah Winfrey after receiving her honorary doctorate degree.
Photo: Rian Horn

Photo gallery

Video clip

Transcription (pdf document)
 

“I came 8 000 miles to say, thank you, Vrystaat!” and “God bless South Africa,” were the words Dr Oprah Winfrey used yesterday to respectively open and close her address to an overflowing Callie Human Centre on our Bloemfontein Campus.

Our university awarded an honorary doctorate in Education to Dr Winfrey during a stately, yet warm and cheerful affair yesterday, which saw the 4 500 seater Callie Human Centre packed to the rafters with adoring fans, staff members and students. 

The honorary doctorate is in recognition of her unparalleled dedication to improving the lives and futures of so many by improving education and ensuring that it is accessible to all. Through her award-winning show, The Oprah Winfrey Show (which concluded this year after 25 years of entertainment and service), and the various charity organisations she has established, Dr Winfrey has harnessed the power of her iconic stature in the struggle to eradicate poverty and make education accessible to all.

The ceremony’s audience was entertained by South African music legend, Ms Sibongile Khumalo, the Bloemfontein Children’s Choir, Bartimea School for the Deaf and Blind’s Sign Language Choir, and several other musical performers as well as dancers.

Dr Winfrey could not hold back her tears when Mr John Samuel, interim Director of our International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice, described her as an “honorary daughter of South Africa”. She proved just how much the country means to her when she joined in the singing of the South African national anthem, Nkosi Sikeleli, despite struggling with the words in some parts.

According to Dr Winfrey, her interest in our university began after she had read an article by Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector, in which he emphasised the need for South Africans to stop accepting mediocrity, if ever the country is to develop to its full potential.

She asked Mr Samuel to convey her message of support to Prof. Jansen and the wheels, which led to today’s great event, were set in motion. 

She also expressed her admiration of the transformation process at our university and our commitment to “reconciliation, peace and harmony”. “What has happened at the University of the Free State is nothing short of a miracle and this is truly what the New South Africa is about,” she said to loud cheers from the audience. 

To emphasise her point, she called the five workers from the Reitz video to the stage and used their forgiveness and acceptance of the students responsible for the video as an example of the healing achieved at the UFS. 

“Having seen this forgiveness has allowed me to expand my vision of what we can be.” She also delivered a message of encouragement and reminded students that anyone, despite their circumstances and background, could become successful and grow to overcome their obstacles, as she had done.

“Anyone can be successful if they put their mind to it, work hard and are diligent,” she said. “We must all strive for more than success, though, and fulfil the highest expression of ourselves as humans by realising who you are and what you are meant to be.”

Following her address, Dr Winfrey answered several questions from our students, giving them advice on, among other things, how to choose a career that is right for them, and good characteristics to look for in leaders and peers.

She also mentioned that several learners from the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, which has its very first group of Grade 12 learners this year, would be visiting our university next month in order to help them select a university to attend next year.

 

Media Release
25 June 2011
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Director: Strategic Communication
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: news@ufs.ac.za
  

 

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