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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 journey into self-discovery
2011-08-17

Sandy Little

The launch of the film and book Africa meets Africa: Pathways through the Interior at our university was a huge success.

It forms part of the The Africa meets Africa Project that is known for making connections between knowledge systems in pursuit of learning. It integrates amongst others beadwork and weaving with mathematics.

The film takes one through the Free State and some parts of the Northern Cape. The two actors, Mr Lerato Mokhitli and Ms Sandy Little, are both art students at Kovsies. During the trip they reveal some historic events not known to all. Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector, said: “Our history is a lot more complex and interesting than current texts allow. Much of what happened laid the foundations for trauma, and triumph is poorly understood. More so, is the history of the ordinary.”

The film and book are funded by National Heritage Council and FirstRand. It was launched in other provinces, among them KwaZulu-Natal. The Africa meets Africa Project aims to use the book in the Free State and Northern Cape in the Further Education and Training (FET) phase for educators and university students.

Prof. Jansen furthermore said: “I would definitely recommend the book with some additions, such as representation of excluded cultures. This would include white ethnographic histories and cultures and the intersections across black/white, African/European histories. I would also make the subject history compulsory to ensure that children would be exposed to our complex history.”

Ms Moipone Kabaoe, a third-year B.Soc.Sc. student at UFS, said: “The film was very informative and clarified some things. I also believe the actors have actually grown from the experience and they did a great job.”

Mrs Anna Mokhitli was ecstatic at the launch, as any proud mother would be. “I knew they were working so hard, but I never thought it would be something this big,” she said. Ms Helene Smuts, Director of Africa meets Africa, said: “You cannot learn until you start with what you know. This is the journey we took; now you must take your own.”
 

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