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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

‘Language central to multidisciplinary society’
2012-03-22

 

Dr. Neville Alexander (right) discussed the role of language and culture in creating tolerance in South Africa. On the left is Prof. André Keet, Director of the UFS' International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconcilliation and Social Justice.
Photo: Johan Roux
22 March 2012

A multilingual state and culture could lead to more tolerance in South Africa, and schools and universities could play a leading role in the creation of a multilingual culture.

This is according to Dr Neville Alexander, one of South Africa’s foremost linguists and educationalists.

Dr Alexander spoke during a discussion session on language issues in a new South Africa at the University of the Free State’s (UFS) International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice.

He said in a multidisciplinary society, language is central to everything we do. 

“Language has the ability to empower people or to disempower them. Yet the present government failed to value the other official South African languages, apart from Afrikaans and English.”

Dr Alexander said it is “convenient and cheap” for the government “to only govern in English”.

Government officials and academics often used the shortage of terminology and glossaries in various African languages as an excuse to use only English as the medium of instruction. This tendency puts young children in the South African school system at a disadvantage since it deprives them of their right to mother tongue education.

According to Dr Alexander, this is similar to the problems that academics experienced centuries ago when only Latin terminology existed for certain disciplines.

“It is the task of educationalists and experts to develop the necessary word lists and terminology to offer more economic value to all our official languages.”

If multilingualism was promoted at school level, a multilingual culture would become more acceptable in future. In this way, we could have an isiZulu of isiXhosa dominant university in South Africa in 30 years time.
 

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