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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

Elzmarie honoured internationally for economics education
2012-10-13

Elzmarie Oosthuizen (middle) with Prof. John Brock of Colorado University in Colorado Springs and Prof. Claudia Parliament of Minnesota University.
12 October 2012

An exceptional honour has been bestowed on Elzmarie Oosthuizen of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences with the awarding of the Patricia K. Elder International Award to her in America at the beginning of October 2012.

The award is made by the National Association of Economics Educators and the Council for Economics Education (CEE). It gives recognition to individuals whose outstanding and committed service makes a meaningful impact on the delivery of economics education worldwide. The award was made to her at the 51th annual Financial Literacy and Economics Education Conference in Kansas City, Missouri.

Elzmarie is Manager: Teaching and Learning in the Faculty. She was originally appointed to manage various projects to better prepare students for what is expected of them.  She teaches in the extended programme and achieved success with bridging mathematics and the changing methodologies that she uses.

She plays an active role in international economics education programming. Elzmarie was an essential element in the development of CEE’s programmes in South Africa and has now moved to expand economics education programmes to Namibia, Lesotho and Botswana. 

She successfully participated in the CEE’s Train the Writers programme and lobbied the CEE to provide a mentoring programme that would prepare participants to offer a training of writers programme within their own country. This year, she presented the first writers programme for South African teachers.

Claudia Parliament, Director of the Minnesota Council on Economics Education, said in her recommendation for the award:  “Elzmarie is a change agent.  She has boundless energy.  Few can keep up with her work pace.  She has put economics education on the map in South Africa and she is poised to have a similar impact in other countries in southern Africa.”

Elzmarie says: “I feel very honoured to have received this award.” Since 2004, she has worked very hard and trained some 800 teachers. In 2011, some 200 000 children were reached through the training.

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