What is sustainable development? Chemistry Calendar, July: Sustainability

Uploaded by MoleCluesTV on 23.08.2011


We stand before a potential problem.
What's going to happen to our Planet in the future?
We've obviously made some bad calls in the past,
and honestly a few of these are a result of chemicals
that have turned out to do more damage than good.
So with this track record from the past,
should chemistry be left out of the whole sustainable development plan for the future?

So what is Sustainable Development?
Quite simply, it means that we make sure
future generations have the same chance to live a good life as we do.
This includes making wise decisions on how we use our natural resources
and making sure no one, no matter where they live in the world,
is left outside of this plan.
Now let's add 'Chemicals' to this equation.
Yes, the word does have a pretty bad ring to it, doesn't it?
Well I'm a chemist, and I still want to work to help the planet.
Unfortunately, it almost seems like a first quick fix for the future
would be to stop using chemicals altogether.
Well, let's see what would happen then...
Really, these shouldn't be here.
And I would be gone too.
You see, everything is a chemical.
We are chemicals,
the air we breathe is made up of chemicals,
water is a chemical.
Now you probably say:
''Most of those things are natural chemicals.
What we need to get rid of are the unnatural chemicals.''
This is true in a sense.
But it turns out many of the chemicals that we have invented
are actually, literally, lifesavers.
So what should we do then?

I think I know someone who could help answer if my choice to become a chemist
was a good or bad choice for the Planet.
My name is Magdalena Svanström,
and I'm an associate professor in chemical environmental science.
Magdalena tells me about the many fields of research
chemists are working to come up with new solutions for a sustainable future.
She also tells me that there is something called Green Chemistry.
Green Chemistry, that's a new strategy for chemists.
It's a way to design synthesis methods, the ways to produce chemicals,
that is less detrimental to the environment.
That reduces risks, that builds on non-toxic substances,
and renewable substances and so forth.
It's a way for chemists to reduce the risks relating to what they're doing.
You see a big issue is what happens to the chemical after it has done its job.
Many chemicals are what is called persistent,
which means that they don't break down and disappear easily.
Instead, they may remain in the environment, and be transported around with water and air,
and affect organisms that they were not intended for.
When chemists first started synthesizing chemicals
the results didn't always turn out as they hoped.
In many cases,
scientists invented chemicals that worked great for what they were invented for,
but the long-term effects on the environment, and even us humans,
were sometimes not studied enough.

Here's something you should know about washing machine products.
Oh, yes there are remedies galore.
All sorts of medications!
It's so easy!
Just attach Yard Master to you hose, turn on the water, and spray.
This is their grim story.
So one of the things you need to think about when you're working with Green Chemistry
is what is going to happen to the chemical, or the material, after use.
If it's going to be recyclable, then it has to be easily recyclable.
If it doesn't, it has to be biologically degradable.
So you have to take responsibility for the full life of the chemical,
not only the use of the chemical.
Not only irritates the nasal passages and fog up the atmosphere,
but quickly loose their effectiveness as the fog is dissipating.
The global population is continuously growing,
resulting also in a growing need for more efficient use of our available resources.
Chemists are working trying to find new solutions
to many of the big questions for sustainable global future.
Finding better ways to get energy,
coming up with improved materials that both reduce energy consumption,
and support recycling.
Working to find new more environmentally friendly pesticides
to help meet the demand for food without affecting the environment in a negative way.
And solutions can vary greatly depending on where we are in the world.
Well, I'm convinced that you and other chemists have a very important role
for a sustainable society.
Both when it comes to providing all the chemicals and products
that we need to have a good life,
and also to make sure that this doesn't have negative consequences
to our health and to the ecosystems.

So we've seen how we wouldn't be able to live completely without chemicals.
And even if some of the chemicals that have been used in the past,
and some which are still being used today,
have resulted in negative impacts on the environment,
there is a growing field of research called Green Chemistry,
taking the key elements of a sustainable future into consideration.
Chemical research is finding improved ways to use our resources
and to recycle the resources we use.
Chemical research is also providing us with life-saving medicines
and clean water to needed parts of the world.
The work of future chemists is crucial, to help solve the many questions
around a sustainable future.
And you can be a part of this too!
So remember,
Chemistry is all around You!