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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

Before and After Hector
2014-03-05

 

Björn Krondorfer

The apartheid years. The Anglo-Boer War. Mix these two topics together and you are ensured of a vigorous debate.

This was exactly the result at the Centenary Complex Gallery recently. During a round-table discussion, Kovsie students analysed an artwork by Gerrit Hattingh entitled “Before and After Hector”. The artwork depicts the iconic photo of Hector Pieterson – taken during the 1976 Soweto Uprising – staged as an event in the Anglo-Boer War.

The artwork functioned as the focal point at an exhibition curated by Angela de Jesus.The exhibition formed part of the International Research Forum hosted by the UFS which explored the topic of Societies in the Aftermath of Mass Trauma and Violence.

The ensuing conversation did not disappoint. The photograph evoked a wide range of views and emotions as the students reflected on the historic image representing violent and painful events of our collective past. As the students robustly exchanged their opinions, they developed strategies to support the reconciliation process. The dialogue assisted these students in formulating ways to look back at our history and use this knowledge to carry our society past traumatic experiences.

Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Senior Research Professor in the Office for Research on Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation, was astounded at the level of insight and wisdom the students displayed. “I am pleased that our students came to join us around the table to discuss this portrait which is iconic globally; to engage and also give their own interpretations of what they know, and what they do not know about our historical past. The dialogue about the interweaving of the Hector Pieterson photograph with the story of black victims of the British concentration camps is one of the ways of exploring the views of the younger generation in the aftermath of mass trauma and violence in our collective history,” Prof Gobodo-Madikizela concluded at the end of the conversation.

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