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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

Shushing, speaking, politicians, policing
2014-03-18

 
Prof Pumla Dineo Gqola
Photo: Michelle Nothling

Feminist writer, scholar and previous Kovsie staff member, Prof Pumla Dineo Gqola, recently launched her book at the Bloemfontein Campus. “A Renegade Called Simphiwe” explores the life – and controversy – of singer Simphiwe Dana.

The book tells the story of Dana, a rebellious artist and cultural activist. But it also delves much deeper – into the fabric of our society itself. It questions our expectations and reactions to the things that make us shift in our seats.

The politics of silencing
Artists should not involve themselves in politics. They should stick to what they’re good at. Dana and other artists know this silencing finger being waved at them all too well. It is this mentality that alarms Prof Gqola. “I’m very disturbed by the notion of policing our – especially female – artists.” She pointed out that it is mostly female artists in SA who are put under scrutiny, reigned in and censored. Not only by politicians, though. Our public also quickly steps in when an artist seems to step out of ‘their place’.

The proper place of art
“I’m part of the movement that believes art transforms,” said Prof Gqola. South Africa used to be a fertile ground for protest art. This had an immense impact on political and social transformation. “Then something happened,” Prof Gqola let the words linger. “The arts got divorced from its social transformative power.”

Why has art been publically marginalised?

The question remains.

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