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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

Lunch-time lecture on the subject of contested memories
2011-08-23

 

Guests at the lecture from the left: Dr. Sheila Aronstam, a former UFS Council member; Dr. Eva Hoffman and Henya Bryer a survivor of the Holocaust
Photo: Amanda Tongha

Acclaimed Polish author and academic Dr Eva Hoffman visited the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Bloemfontein Campus on 16 Augustus 2010 to deliver a lunch-time lecture on the subject of contested memories.

Speaking about the after-effects of unjust violence on second-generation Holocaust survivors, Dr Hoffman drew some parallels between the history of Eastern Europe and that of South Africa, stating that with some categories of conflict and prejudice the context in this region of the world might not be too remote. Dr Hoffman, born to Jewish parents who survived the Holocaust, told the audience that in most instances the past was still alive in the present.
 
Talking about traumatic memories, Dr Hoffman revisited her family’s suffering during the Holocaust and stated that the second generation lives with the paradoxes of indirect knowledge. According to her there has to be acknowledgment of the injustice to put the conflict and tension inherited from a repressed history truly to rest. Referring to the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), she said wrongs could not be forgiven until they were admitted. 
 
Dr Hoffman, who is the author of books such as Lost in Translation: life in a new language and Stetl: the life and death of a small town and the world of Polish Jews, praised the university for being on the forefront of social issues in democratic South Africa.

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