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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

Prof Melanie Walker to spearhead international organisation
2014-06-02

 
Prof Melanie Walker has just added another phenomenal achievement to her illustrious academic career. Members of the international Human Development and Capabilities Association (HDCA) have elected her to the leading role of Vice-President.

Founded in 2004 by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, the HDCA is a global community of academics and practitioners. Together, they seek to build an intellectual community around the ideas of human development and the capability approach. Ultimately, the association strives to drive these ideas into the policy arena.

With members living in over 70 countries world-wide, the HDCA promotes research across a wide field of disciplines. These range from economics, philosophy and development studies to health, education, law, government, sociology and more.

In her new role, Prof Walker will be working closely with the renowned philosopher, Prof Henry Richardson of Georgetown University, USA. He is currently President-elect of the association. “My election as Vice-President will enable me to work closely with Henry and the Executive Committee to build on the first successful decade of the association to strengthen its reach and responsiveness to researchers, practitioners and policy makers,” Prof Walker says. “It is a tremendous honour to have been elected and a wonderful challenge for the next three years, personally and professionally. It will also place a significant spotlight on the human development and capabilities research I am leading at the UFS.”

Annually, the HDCA organises an international conference. This year celebrates a decade of successful symposiums and will take place in Athens. Eight Kovsie graduate students and researchers from the UFS’s Centre for Research on Higher Education and Development have had their papers accepted.

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