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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

Mellon Foundation awards R10 million research grant to Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation Studies
2015-02-20

Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Senior Research Professor in Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation Studies, and Dr Saleem Badat, Programme Director at the Mellon Foundation.
Photo: Johan Roux

Through her profound insight, vast experience, and unfaltering belief in humanity, Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, has secured a R10 million grant from one of the world’s most prestigious foundations funding human sciences research.

“This is one of the biggest grants that the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded to a university”, said Dr Saleem Badat, Program Director: International Higher Education and Strategic Projects at the Mellon Foundation. Prof Badat attended the press event that took place on 16 February 2015 on our Bloemfontein Campus.

UFS Trauma, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation Studies, spearheaded by Prof Gobodo-Madikizela, will manage the research project.

Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, expressed great excitement “about this particular grant and the subject on which it focuses is so incredibly timely and germane to our own situation.”

Trauma, Memory and Representations of the Past: Transforming Scholarship in the Humanities and Arts

This new-found partnership between the Mellon Foundation and the UFS will enable a five-year research programme. The focus area of this initiative will be ‘Trauma, Memory and Representations of the Past: Transforming Scholarship in the Humanities and Arts’.

The research will pivot specifically around the question of how trauma is transmitted from one generation to the next. “South Africa lends itself to these questions,” Prof Gobodo-Madikizela said, “because we are now dealing with a generation of young people who were born after the traumas of the past.” These past experiences, though, are “passed on to the younger generation and become their own stories and narratives as if they themselves experienced the traumas directly.”

“This is an investment in how we can in fact create a different kind of community,” Prof Jansen said, “in which we eventually recognise each other – not by the accident of our skin, but by that elusive sense of a common humanity.”

Arts and theatre

Other aspects critical to this study are the inclusion of the arts and theatre. Many people have great difficulty in expressing their experiences of trauma in the spoken word. The arts and theatre provide an ideal platform to engage the public and stimulate conversation. As an example of the power these platforms possess, Prof Gobodo-Madikizela highlighted the success of the Johannes Stegmann Art Gallery – situated on the Bloemfontein Campus and curated by Angela de Jesus – in engaging the public in very productive ways.

Participants

Some of the artists, directors and scholars who will join in this project include:

• Lara Foot-Newton, Director/Playwright
• Sue Williamson, Activist Artist
• Angela de Jesus, Visual Artist/Curator
• Dr Buhle Zuma, Social Psychology Research
• Dr Shose Khessi, Social Psychology Research
• Prof Tamara Shefer, Women’s and Gender Studies
• Prof Kopano Ratele, Gender/Men and Masculinities
• Prof Jan Coetzee, Sociology of Developing Societies
• Prof Helene Strauss, Literary and Cultural Studies

New intellectual frontiers

“There is an aspiration in this proposal,” Dr Saleem Badat said. “We were born through this pain of colonialism and apartheid; we even went through the TRC. Our scholars in this country, our universities, should be at the forefront of this research. This is not research we can leave to the institutions in the north.”

Prof Gobodo-Madikizela agreed. “The overarching theme of this work is new knowledge production, focusing on the experiences in South Africa as experiences that can teach us something new.”

This will serve not only South Africa, but can also establish support for, and inform, countries facing similar dilemmas. In fact, “any part of the world in which genocide and murder and racism remains as legacies from the past,” Dr Badat said.

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