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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

Prestige scholar, Oliver Mutanga, to continue research at University of Pavia through CICOPS scholarship
2014-12-19

 

Oliver Mutanga has been awarded a 2015 CICOPS scholarship – one of only ten researchers world-wide to be afforded this opportunity. The scholarship enables Mutanga to visit the University of Pavia in Italy from January to March next year to expand his research.

As a second-year PhD student taking part in the Vice-Chancellor’s Prestige Scholars Programme, Mutanga is well on his way to achieve his goal of becoming an internationally-recognised scholar. He is currently conducting his research at our Centre for Research on Higher Education and Development under the supervision of Prof Melanie Walker and Dr Lis Lange. In his PhD, Mutanga examines the processes through which disabled students make their educational choices and negotiate different socio-cultural and institutional structures in higher education.

During his stay in Italy, Mutanga will work with Prof Enrica Chiappero-Martinetti on the intersectionality of disability, disadvantage and other social variables. “I will also present lectures and seminars on my PhD work at Pavia University and meet with other young capabilities approach scholars,” Mutanga says.

There is a growing acknowledgement nationally and internationally that there is limited data and understanding of the framing on disability issues. As such, data on the experiences of disabled students in higher education is important and timely in preparation of the Post 2015 Development Agenda.

Mutanga’s preliminary analysis challenges the popular discourse that is so common in South African higher education debates that they receive unprepared students into their institutions. The data seems to indicate the opposite, though: that it might be the institutions that are underprepared to receive diverse students. The study advocates for a capabilities-based conception of student equity that focuses on the widening of opportunities for all students within higher education to pursue what they have reason to value.

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