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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 Laura Mulvey – intellectual path-breaker in international film industry
2014-07-10

Prof Laura Mulvey – currently a professor at Film and Media Studies at Birkbeck, University of London, recently visited the Bloemfontein Campus. As a tribute to her achievements, the UFS bestowed an Honorary Doctorate on her during our 2014 Winter Graduation Ceremony. In addition, two events were scheduled during which the public could get to know Prof Mulvey and her films better.

Prof Mulvey is a hugely influential figure in the international arena of film and visual media. She is globally recognised as an eminent feminist film scholar and worked at the British Film Institute for many years. During the 1970s and ‘80s she exploded onto the scene as a prominent avant-garde filmmaker.

During her visit, she joined Prof Annie van den Oever (University of Groningen) in two discussions of films – which included some of her most renowned film material.

Under the Skin of the City (Iran, 2001), directed by Rakhshan Bani-E'temad, was screened in full on Thursday 3 July 2014. The film centres on the trials and tribulations faced by an Iranian family. This award-winning film resonated with the South Africans present because of the social issues it addresses. A thought-provoking discussion followed between Profs Mulvey, Van den Oever and the audience – delving deeper into the mechanisms of the film.

On Saturday 5 July 2014, Prof Van den Oever and Prof Mulvey had another discussion – this time round the audience was treated to snippets from Prof Mulvey’s prominent films.

Her work has impacted the cultural and social sciences and not only does her critical analysis scrutinise issues of gender, but also that of race and ethnicity.

Described as ‘a key intellectual path-breaker’, Prof Mulvey’s visit left a trail of inspiration throughout our Kovsie community.

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