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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

UFS responds to media reports about UFS101
2012-08-18

The UFS101 is a cross-disciplinary module of the University of the Free State (UFS) that encourages critical thinking and offers access to knowledge beyond the specific qualifications for which students are registered. This is a multi-disciplinary academic curriculum that includes topics in astronomy, nanotechnology, history, law, anthropology and religion.

Throughout the seven units students are taught to think broadly rather than narrowly, and critically rather than through rote-learning.

The core curriculum module raises some difficult questions about science, humanity and the universe that have occupied human beings for centuries. There is considerable effort put into the module to enable balance, respect, and independent thinking. Students are not taught what to think but are offered different perspectives on difficult issues.

“In my unit on the question ‘how should we deal with the past?’ every effort is made for students to examine the perspectives on history held by people from different communities in South Africa,” said Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS.

Students are then encouraged to speak in class, online and in tutorial groups where they are given ample opportunities to take a position and defend it not through emotion and anger, but through logic and reason.

The objective of the module is to equip students to deal with “the present past” in constructive and empathetic ways. They are also prepared to become active citizens outside the classroom and gain skills they can use anywhere in the world.

Some students find the module difficult at first, since most of them are not used to the practice of critical thinking and dealing with difficult questions from the past, the present and the future. Most students gradually come to enjoy the core curriculum module as they become accustomed to a new style of teaching and learning.

There are 700 first-year modules at the UFS. This is the only one module offered to students in English so that all students, local and international, can engage with one another directly on the subject matter discussed in the module. However, the module material is also available in Afrikaans online.It is a pity that AfriForum Jeug Kovsies did not discuss their concerns with the presenters of the module, but chose to do it through the media.

It is a pity that AfriForum Jeug Kovsies did not discuss their concerns with the presenters of the module, but chose to do it through the media.

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