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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 academic delivers inaugural lecture on challenges confronting political science in the 21st century
2012-10-12

Prof. Hussein Solomon.
Photo: Stephen Collett
12 October 2012

This week Prof. Hussein Solomon, Senior Professor in the Department of Political Studies and Governance delivered his inaugural lecture on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS).

In his lecture, “Challenges confronting political science in the 21st century, A South African perspective”, Prof. Solomon explored five challenges to academic political science in general and to South African political scientists in particular.

The challenges include the need to localise international relations theory with an emphasis on the emancipatory dimensions; exploring the nexus between technology and politics; incorporating political anthropology into mainstream political science syllabi; rising to the challenge of governing Africa’s cities; and the dangers of over-specialisation in an era that demands the use of a broader academic lens.

According to Prof. Solomon, political science has come a long way from those heady days in 1950 when Lasswell could confidently state that politics was about who gets what, when and how.

“Indeed, the world of 2012 scarcely resembles the world of 1950. Immanuel Wallerstein was correct in his assessment that the modern world system is coming to an end. As political scientists, we need to interrogate our existing knowledge constructs in relation to this rapidly changing reality. We need to indigenise international relations theory and emphasise creating an emancipatory and counter-hegemonic discourse.

We need to explore the nexus between technology and politics to deepen our democracy by empowering the margins in our societies. We need to embrace political anthropology as we strive to understand non-Western forms of governance. We need to use these understandings of traditional societies as we create hybrid forms of urban governance that stress inclusivity as we overcome the politics of identity and difference. We need to heed the call of De Tocqueville and create a new political science to understand the new times by supplementing disciplinary insights with those from other disciplines. In doing so, political science will once more regain its relevance to humanity in the twenty-first century,” Prof. Solomon said.
 

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