30 No. 2
Green Chemistry, Sustainable Development, and Social Responsibility of Scientists
The more than 3 000 chemists who came to Moscow in September this year to participate in the XVIII Mendeleyev Congress on General and Applied Chemistry had a chance to enjoy a true Indian summer—in Russia, known as a “woman’s summer.” The Congress was held in the headquarters of the Russian Academy of Sciences, situated in the green, southwest part of the city, not far from the bank of the Moskva river. From there, participants could enjoy the colors of the turning leaves, which seemed to emphasize the beauty of nature and our role in protecting it. So it was only fitting that during the congress, the international symposium on Green Chemistry, Sustainable Development, and Social Responsibility of Scientists took place.
The symposium was financially supported by the Russian Academy of Sciences, IUPAC, OPCW, the European Commission (through the Russian Regional Environmental Centre), and the Institute of Chemistry and the Problems of Sustainable Development at D. Mendeleyev Univ. of Chemical Technology of Russia.
The symposium had several goals:
- disseminating new educational materials related to responsible stewardship, and showing the necessity and practicality of including “green” chemistry principles in chemical education
- emphasizing the social responsibility of scientists in promoting sustainable development, both in developed and developing countries
- promoting all aspects of chemistry, not just among the members of the profession but, increasingly, to the worldwide community, and contributing to the public’s understanding of chemistry
Undoubtedly, the symposium has helped to facilitate the exchange of information among scientists, educators, and decision makers; helped promote awareness about the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and its implementation in the scientific community; and has provided additional impetus to developing a culture of responsibility within the scientific community and encouraging compliance with international norms, including the CWC.
Chemistry plays a critical role in sustainable development because progress of new technologies is inextricably tied to the progress of modern civilization. We live in a world completely grounded on chemistry: everything that we are and do is controlled by chemistry. Fortunately, there are many chemical educators, well trained in environmental issues, who would like to take the next step and contribute to the development of education related to sustainable development, as was evidenced at this symposium.
The symposium featured presentations from more than 120 speakers from academia, international organizations, research organizations, and chemical companies from Russian and the Commonwealth of Independent States as well as from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Italy, and the United States. The presentations addressed several themes:
- practical applications of green chemistry in scientific research and practice
- introduction of principles of green chemistry into classical chemical education
- the risks and safety of chemical processes, and the safe destruction of chemical weapons
- environmental management and the social responsibility of professional chemists
- environmental education as a part of education for sustainable development
In the opening session, Pietro Tundo, Valery Petrosyan, Peter Mahaffy, and Mary Kirchhoff each made clear presentations describing the challenges and opportunities of green chemistry. In the technical sessions, the key themes of the symposium were discussed in depth. In fact, the presentation made by E. A. Mamontova (Institute of Geochemistry of SB of RAS, Irkutsk, Russia), entitled “The Problem of POPs in Lake Baikal and the Lake Baikal Region,” generated such a great number of questions concerning the responsibility of chemists for environmental risks that the chairs of the session had to limit the questions.
Two poster prizes were awarded at the symposium recognizing young chemists:
- “The Synthesis of Extended Porphyrins in Aqueous Microemulsions,” by S. Chernov, A. Cheprakov, and I. Beletskaya, Chemistry Department, Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia
- “Synthesis of Alkoxysilylated Humic Derivatives and Their Immobilization Onto Mineral Surfaces,” by L.A. Karpiouk, I.V. Perminova, S.A. Ponomarenko, and A.M. Muzafarov.
Much of the discussion during the symposium centered on the following topics:
- the necessity of introducing the principles and methods of “green” chemistry into chemical education, both at the university and the high school level
- the role of chemical education in understanding global environmental problems
- the movement from environmental education to education for sustainable development
- the safe destruction of chemical weapons
- opportunities for the resolution of regional environmental problems by methods of “green” chemistry
- legal questions of environmental management and the social responsibility of chemists
- the search for new chemical methods and recipes of for “green” chemistry processes that can help solve environmental problems and help in the safe destruction of chemical weapons
The following recommendations emerged from the symposium:
- chemists should work together in a spirit of humanism and tolerance to help achieve sustainable development, and that ethical principles guiding the professional work of chemists should be outlined in a code of conduct
- principles of green chemistry should be used in scientific research and brought into industrial development
- principles of sustainable development and green chemistry and should be introduced into chemical education at the grade school, high school, and university levels
- education related to sustainable development should include chemical education as a way of adequately understanding the processes taking place in the environment
- “green” chemistry methods should be used to create new, safe technologies for the destruction of chemical weapons
- the fundamental principles of chemical education should be preserved, and that they should be connected with the problems of sustainable development (i.e., environmental problems, problems of energy and resource conservation , and the social and ethics aspects of development)
- M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University’s initiative to organize the second International IUPAC Conference on green chemistry should be
For detailed information on the congress, see <www.chemend.ru>.
For more information and comments, please contact Task Group Chairperson Natalia Tarasova <[email protected]>.
last modified 24 March 2008.
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