The Marvelous Concept of One-World Chemistry

What do you imagine a chemist does?

Unfortunately, chemistry can get a bad rap by the public. We hear in the media all the time about environmental contaminants, food additives, and toxic drug side effects. But these ideas contrast with the incredible contributions chemists have made to the common good - within fields such as biotechnology, agriculture, energy and the environment. The authors of a new Nature Chemistry commentary have introduced the idea of “One-world Chemistry” to transform Chemistry into a science of sustainability.

These scientists, who are all affiliated with the International Organization for Chemical Sciences in Development (IOCD), state “The one-world concept embodies the idea that chemistry is a creative science that is practiced in both fundamental and applied arenas in a sustainable and ethical manner for the benefit of society”. This means innovating chemical reactions that fit into the big sustainability picture. What is the source of materials? How will they be disposed? What are the environmental impacts? It means looking beyond the immediate utility of a thing or process. To me, “One-world Chemistry” promotes the work of chemists in communion with its global environmental impact.

The truth is that the world needs talented chemists to help meet its sustainability goals. The article goes on to give some terrific examples. Treating waste water for antibiotic contamination. Recyclability of plastic waste. Preventing food and water shortages. Eco-friendly energy production. There are so many challenges! Progress in these areas will be the impetus towards a one-world chemistry transformation.

With this evolution, when you think of a chemist, you will think of a sustainability scientist. Undoubtedly, a labconscious sustainability scientist!

Read: One-world chemistry and systems thinking by Stephen A. Matlin, Goverdhan Mehta, Henning Hopf and Alain Krief Nature Chemistry (2016)8, 393–398