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Moving Beyond the International Year of Chemistry: A Sustainable Future Begins Now
3:10 AM MST | December 19, 2011 | By RUI CRUZ AND NAHRAIN KAMBER, DOW CHEMICAL
By Rui Cruz, Senior Manager for the Epoxy Process R&D group at The Dow Chemical Company, and Nahrain Kamber, Associate Scientist for Industrial Coatings R&D at Dow Coating Materials
By 2050, there will be an additional 2-to-3 billion people on Earth. As a society, we hold a responsibility for ensuring that those living on Earth in 2050 have the opportunity for a healthy, productive and prosperous life – with access to clean drinking water, affordable energy, nutritious food and clean air.
The 2011 International Year of Chemistry has given scientists, educators, and industry professionals a unique opportunity to raise awareness of the role chemistry plays in meeting global challenges. At the IYC closing events in Brussels, we were honored to be among 13 young professionals from different chemical and pharmaceutical organizations tasked with developing a vision for a better world in 2050, enabled by chemistry.
From the beginning, we decided that our approach would not be an exercise in futurology. Instead, we discussed a global scenario that would make us proud, and then developed a pathway and milestones to get there. We saw a more sustainable world transformed by chemistry solutions, where chemistry enables whole economies to meet the growing needs of their people. Our vision is one we can reach by working together, across geographies, institutions, generations and disciplines.
Sustainability begins in our collective imaginations, with “collective” being a key concept. Over the past year, our group worked to develop this sustainable vision, utilizing our diverse perspectives and experiences. Our collaboration, commitment and team work was amazing, transcending differences in backgrounds, cultures, geographies and affiliations. We will remain good friends who are committed to working together to help this vision come to fruition.
How do we get there? Chemistry innovation driven by international, cross-sector collaboration will play a game-changing role in developing sustainable solutions for global challenges in food, water, health and habitat:
More food with less water. Agriculture currently accounts for 70% of fresh water use, and as global food production increases, fresh water demand will increase as well. Chemistry can enable “more crop per drop” by developing drought-resistant crops and seeds, fertilizers that require less water, purification technologies that produce fresh water from saline or wastewater sources, and robust piping materials for efficient water transport.
Healthier communities. Chemical breakthroughs can enable predictive and personalized medicine, ensuring that the right treatment is delivered to the right individual at the appropriate time. This will have tremendous implications for health policy and the availability of health care.
Cleaner, greener cities. Chemistry plays a key role in developing advanced insulation to keep buildings at the right temperature, and in creating clean, renewable power. Chemistry will help in “light weighting” automobiles for increased fuel efficiency, developing algae-based biofuel and enabling mass deployment of electric vehicles.
As scientists, innovators and young leaders, we are in a unique position to alter the way chemistry affects the world around us. By collaborating, we can bring developments in the lab to those outside in profound and understandable ways.
A key enabler is education, both of future scientists and the overall population, on the power of chemistry to solve great challenges. As part of the closing ceremony of the IYC, our vision was presented to and discussed with more than 200 high school and university students, engaging interest and encouraging the next generation of leaders.
As the 2011 International Year of Chemistry draws to a close, we ask ourselves: where does a sustainable future begin? The answer is that it begins now, with all of us working together, today and into tomorrow.
You can join us in making this vision a reality – all it takes is a concerted effort to continue this dialogue about the role science can play in enriching our lives. That means connecting with others who might be outside of our companies, or even industries, around what can we do to help build a sustainable future.
We’d love to hear your ideas @DowChemical and www.facebook.com/TheDowChemicalCompany.