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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

“Every journey begins with the first steps” – Marguerite van der Merwe
2016-07-08

Description: Marguerite van der Merwe Tags: Marguerite van der Merwe

Marguerite van der Merwe, recipient of University of the
Free State Chancellor’s Medal, with Chancellor
Dr Khotso Mokhele, at the Winter Graduation ceremony.

Photo: Johan Roux

Marguerite van der Merwe has dedicated her life to the enrichment and increased quality of life for others. At the University of the Free State’s Winter Graduations on 30 June 2016, Van der Merwe and her brother, Anthony Douglas Osler, were both honoured with Chancellor’s Medals for exceptional service to South Africa and the world beyond our borders. In the early 1980s, she learned about the Alexander Technique and her life since then has been about perfecting the technique and sharing it with others. The Alexander Technique teaches people of any age, gender, occupation or interest, how to be posture-aware and perfect, how to be aware and alert, and how to be calm and discriminating, all of which are part of a practical teaching to integrate these qualities consciously into all our daily human activities.  

She walks the walk

She understood the Alexander Technique to be the perfect way to develop the body both physically and mentally, as it develops the higher mental faculties like focus, attention, awareness, consciousness, discrimination, and unfolding of the psyche, thus developing the human potential holistically as a spiritual way of being. She received her training for the technique in Cape Town and London, thereafter she published The Art of Walking, a guide to the Alexander Technique.

Van der Merwe is an internationally-certified teacher of the Alexander Technique, has been offering this work and its application in the spheres of health, education, and performance skills for 30 years, both nationally and internationally.

Van der Merwe says that the South African higher education system should encompass a holistic approach to teaching and educating. Education should envisage a modern vision of education that supports the evolution of the potential of the human being as a holistic system – a competent, skilled, caring, kind individual, developed in physical, mental, emotional and sensorial aspects. She believes that students thus educated will model ‘wholeness’ and ‘humanness’ as they take their place in society, business, education, and entrepreneurship.

Enriching women’s potential

Apart from The Art of Walking, Van der Merwe published EVE-OLUTION, a book to inspire women to listen to their intuition, and empower women to repossess their bodily wisdom, freedom, and authenticity. Van der Merwe proclaims that it is important to liberate women to take charge of their own bodies, minds, and souls. The purpose of the book is to ensure that young women soak up wisdom and encouragement and for older women to express their wisdom, which needs to be respected and listened to.

“Females and feminine roles in society and family are being liberated and acknowledged in the actions of many women as we stand for equal opportunity, equal power, and equality in many fields,” says Van der Merwe.
“Our young women in business and the higher education fraternity, for one, are strong in their views, beautiful in their presence, outspoken in leadership,” Van der Merwe concluded.

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