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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

Lecture focuses on how Marikana widows embody the transformative power of art
2015-08-11

Makopane Thelejane

"When I got the news of my husband is dead, I put my hands above my head, as you see me in this picture. I could not bear the ache in my heart." - Makopane Thelejane

A woman looks down on a canvas covered in thick layers of red, dark shadows falling across her face. A brief moment that captures the silently-devastating aftermath of the Marikana massacre that bled into the lives of 34 widows.

It is this silent trauma that was at the centre of the last instalment of the Vice-Chancellor’s Lecture Series for 2015. “These stories of the Marikana widows are important. It is these stories of silence that live behind the spectacular scenes of the violence,” Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Senior Research Professor in Trauma, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation Studies at the University of the Free State (UFS) said at the event.

Panel
The lecture, which took place on Monday 27 July 2015 on the Bloemfontein Campus, took the form of a panel discussing the theme of “Speaking wounds: voices of Marikana widows through art and narrative”. The panel consisted of members from the Khulumani Support Group, including Dr Marjorie Jobson (National Director) and Judy Seidman (Sociologist and Graphic Artist), as well as Nomfundo Walaza, former CEO of the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre.

Betty Lomasontlo Gadlela

"Then this dark time came, a dark cloud over me. It made me to have an aching heart, which took me to hospital, from losing my loved one, my husband, in such a terrible manner. " - Betty Lomasontlo Gadlela

Trauma made visible
In a project initiated by Khulumani, the Marikana widows were encouraged to share their trauma through painting body maps – in which the widows depicted their own bodies immersed in their trauma – and narrating their personal stories. Throughout the workshops, the focus always remained on the women. As Siedman put it, “the power of this process is rooted in the participants. The statements of what the participants experienced is what’s important.”

Initially silenced and isolated, this group of women has now moved “into a space where they have become connected to each, and stand up for each other in the most powerful ways,” Dr Jobson said. “Our work is conceptualised in terms of giving visibility and voice to the people who know what it takes to change this country; to change this struggle.”

The transformative power of art and narrative
During her response, Walaza pointed out “how art and narrative can transform traumatic memory and become integrated in the survivors’ life story.” This gives individuals the opportunity, she said, “to step into a space of mutual listening and dialoguing in which people bond together.”

Co-hosted by Prof Gobodo-Madikizela and the UFS Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice, the lecture series forms part of a five-year research project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

 

 

 

 

 

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