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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

Middle East activists speak about peace on the Bloemfontein Campus
2012-03-15

 

Bassem Eid (left) and Benjamin Pogrund discuss the situation in the Middle East.
Photo: Johan Roux
15 March 2012

Peace is a big word in the Middle East, particularly amongst Israelis and Palestinians. After years of conflict, people yearn for peace; they want an end to the killings and the uncertainty. The problem is that both sides are actively doing things that undermine the prospect of peace. There is also double talk, lies and evasion with each side pointing fingers. This was the word from Benjamin Pogrund, an Israeli peace activist, addressing staff and students on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State. He and fellow peace activist Bassem Eid, a Palestinian, visited the campus to speak about the situation in the Middle East.

Both men agreed that peace efforts were hindered by the Israeli and the Palestinian leaders. According to Pogrund, neither the Palestinians, nor the Israelis are leading the way in accepting that the conflict must end.
 
“Both Israeli and Palestinian leaders say let us get together with no pre-conditions. Then the Israeli leaders say, Jerusalem we cannot share, that is not for negotiation. And, they say to the Palestinians you must recognise Israel as a Jewish state. So, what they say is unless you agree to these pre-conditions there can be no talks without pre-conditions.
 
“And the Palestinians in turn say the settlement construction must cease immediately, and unless that happened, there is no point in meeting. And they say we will never acknowledge you as a Jewish state so do not even bother talking about it. And we insist on the right of return of Palestinian refugees. So they also say unless you acknowledge these pre-conditions there is no point in meeting with our pre-conditions. So as you can gather each side blames the other side, each side points the finger and says you are responsible for the lack of progress.”
 
Pogrund said both the Israelis and the Palestinians could demand legitimacy in that part of the world.
 
“Both Jewish and Arabs can say we have history on our side. We have religion on our side, culture.”
 
To compare Israel to Apartheid South Africa is wrong, he said.
 
“It is an occupation, it is repression, but it is not Apartheid.”
 
Eid, who is the director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, said the Palestinians were close to having a complete independent Palestinian state from 1994 to 1999.
 
“But in one rocket former Israeli Prime minister Ariel Sharon destroyed it.”
 
He said Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005 did not bring political unity.
 
“We, the Palestinians, were supposed to start building the infrastructure of the Gaza Strip but unfortunately Hamas started dancing on that Israeli disengagement and considered it as their own success because of their military resistance against the occupation.” He also said Hamas is satisfied with its hold in the Gaza Strip and Fatah is also very satisfied with its hold in the West Bank. According to Eid, it is convenient for the Israelis that the Palestinians are separated.

 

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