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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

Meet our Councillor Ryland Fisher - media expert, political commentator, art lover
2016-07-13

Description: Ryland Fisher   Tags: Ryland Fisher

Ryland Fisher
Photo: Johan Roux

With more than 30 years’ experience in the media industry as former editor of the Cape Times and New Age, as well as assistant editor of the Sunday Times, and thanks to a profound understanding of the political situation in South Africa, Ryland Fisher was an obvious choice to serve on the Council of the University of the Free State.

Racial issues and diversity

He was born and bred in Cape Town, and studied Journalism at Rhodes University before the political situation in South Africa interrupted his studies. Despite this, Ryland has made a deep impression on the academy. Among others, he presented lectures on racial issues and diversity at the University of Cape Town, the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism in Johannesburg, Emory University in Atlanta, and Ohio University.  

Author and editor

Ryland has published two books, Race in 2007 and Making the Media Work for You in 2002, and was editor of the Official Opus on Nelson Mandela.

He was elected to the UFS Council in 2015. Ryland believes that his particular background and understanding of the media industry, as well as race and diversity issues, will make a valuable contribution to the Council.

Politics, media, and entrepreneurship

"I have proven experience in politics, the media, and entrepreneurship. I often lecture on media and social transformation. I believe this offers me a unique view that could benefit Council," he says.

Ryland has a particular enthusiasm for the arts, and is executive chairman of the Cape Town Festival. He has been married for over 30 years, and his three daughters lie close to his heart.

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