Sustainability: Why chemistry will have many ways to engage

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Abstract

The role of chemistry in maintaining sustainability is planetary in scope. An understanding of the issues concerned with sustainability must now be part of educational curricula, especially those followed by non-scientists. In an age in which science and its practitioners will be held increasingly accountable, it becomes important for the general public as much as possible to be sufficiently informed. It is also important that perspectives of non-sustainability be considered particularly in making environments inhospitable for pathogenic organisms and for agricultural pests. There will be many barriers to achieving sustainability. Mostly these will arise from established economic, political, and sociological interests. One particular recurring problem is deciding to close industrial plants because of pollution problems. A second continual problem is dealing with runoffs from fertilizer treatments to improve crop yields. A new planetary concern is what is happening with the Amazon rain forest. Chemistry will be used to justify competing resolutions to environmental problems. Chemistry must ally with and be prepared to help practitioners of other scientific and engineering disciplines in achieving sustainability. If sustainability is to be considered worthwhile, it will require major commitments to resolve a vast array of issues from local to planetary.