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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 confers honorary doctorate on one of the world’s foremost academics
2012-11-26

Prof. Martha Nussbaum
Photo: Supplied
26 November 2012

The University of the Free State (UFS) will confer three honorary doctorates at the Summer graduation ceremony on 6 December 2012. One of the world’s foremost philosophers is among those to be honoured. Prof. Martha Nussbaum, described by The New York Times as “one of the most prominent female philosophers in America”, will be honoured with a D.Litt. degree in the Faculty of Humanities. Judge F.D.J. Brand, a former Constitutional Court judge, and Prof. Otto Walter Prozesky, one of the country’s foremost medical researchers, will also receive honorary doctorates.

Prof. Nussbaum, who has honorary doctorates from 40 colleges and universities in America, Canada, Asia and Europe, is recognised for her intellectual and public contribution to human development. She is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago and an active member of the American Philosophy Association. Prof. Nussbaum is well-known and respected as a public intellectual and is considered to be one of the most prominent philosophers in the world.

Prof. Prozesky is to be honoured for the important role that he played in the field of medical research, especially as the President of the Medical Research Council and as researcher/educator in the field of virology and HIV/Aids. He is to receive an honorary degree in Medicine in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Judge Brand, Extraordinary Professor in Private Law in the Faculty of Law at the UFS, is to receive a Doctor Legum degree in recognition of his considerable contribution to the legal science. More than 120 of his judgments are reported in South African legal reports. A review of recent South African legal journals (over the past five years) shows that reference is made to his judgments in at least 30 articles and case discussions.

The Summer graduation ceremony will be held in the Callie Human Centre on the Bloemfontein Campus and will take place in two ceremonies. At 10:15, master’s degrees and doctorates will be awarded, and at 15:15 qualifications will be awarded in a combined graduation ceremony of the Faculty of Health Sciences and the School of Open Learning.

  • Prof. Martha Nussbaum will lead a conversation with members of the public and the campus community on 7 December 2012. On 8 December 2012, she is the main speaker at the UFS’s conference on “Engaging the Other: Empathy and Breaking Transgenerational Cycles of Repetition” on the Bloemfontein Campus.

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