Chapter Zero by EB50e54


28 May 2008 (TURNOVER DRAFT)

The “blue marble,” our Earth, as seen from outer space.

 “The first day or so, we all pointed to our countries. The third or fourth day, we were pointing
to our continents. By the fifth day, we were aware of only one Earth.”
                                                             Prince Sultan Bin Salmon Al-Saud,
                                                                        Saudi Arabian astronaut
    Only one Earth. From the vantage point of outer space, the planet we call home is truly
magnificent—a blue and white ball of water, land, and clouds. Only a few people actually have
observed what the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft photographed in 1972 at a distance of about
28,000 miles above our Earth. The “blue marble” image shows not only the beauty of our planet,
but also its tremendous vulnerability in the emptiness of space. In the words of Soviet astronaut
Aleksei Leonov, “the Earth was small, light blue, and so touchingly alone.”
    Are we alone in the universe? Possibly. Clearly, though, we are not alone on our planet. If
you live in a city, the evidence lies right outside your window. If you watch the evening news,
you will see faces, young and old. The next time that you are in an airport or a train station,
observe the steady flow of passengers. We share the planet with over 6 billion other people!
Over the past century the human population on Earth has more than tripled, an unprecedented
event in the history of our planet. By 2050, the population is projected to grow by another two to
three billion.
    We also share the planet with birds, fish, tiny organisms, large animals, and countless trees,
shrubs, and plants. Biologists estimate upwards of 1.5 million species in addition to our own.
Consider just one example – ants. These tiny (and sometimes ferocious) creatures account for
roughly 14,000 of these species, with thousands more ant species yet to be named. These insects,
together with other species large and small on our planet, play countless important roles. Some
live in close proximity with us; others serve to help and feed us. Still others annoy and even
sicken us.
    Other roles played by different species may be
less obvious. For example, microorganisms shuttle
nitrogen from one chemical form to another on our
planet, providing nutrients for green plants to grow, as
we will describe in Chapter 6 of Chemistry in Context.
In turn, our lives are dependent on these green plants
that, through the process of photosynthesis, absorb
carbon dioxide and while using energy from the sun
release oxygen into the air we breathe. Ultimately,
the species on our planet connect in many ways, some
known and others that exceed our ability to imagine
    Together we all inhabit this planet. We are
inextricably bound up with all species living here in a
highly complex ecological web. And let the record reflect. Because of our individual and
collective human activities on the planet, we are losing these species – our biological heritage on
this planet – at an alarming rate. Our activities as homo sapiens take a toll on the ecosystems of
our planet.
                                                       We humans are an industrious species. We
                                                  grow crops, fish from the sea, burn fuels, pave
                                                  roadways, build structures, manufacture items
                                                  large and small, and travel the globe. And when
                                                  we carry out such activities by the million (or
                                                  billion), we change the quality of the air we
                                                  breathe, the water we drink, and the land on
                                                  which we live.

    The bottom line? Air, water, and soil are resources beyond price. We humans need to
become better stewards. A knowledge of chemistry can help us to do exactly this, because the
global problems that we face – and their solutions – are intimately linked with chemical
expertise, chemical know-how, and chemical ingenuity.

The Choices We Make Today
Individually, it may seem that our actions should have little effect on a system as large as our
planet. After all, in comparison to a hurricane, a drought, or an earthquake, our daily activities
seem pretty inconsequential. What difference could it possibly make if we drove to work instead
of biking, used a reusable cloth bag instead of discarding a plastic one, or ate foods grown
locally instead of those shipped from hundreds even thousands of miles away?
     Activities such as these have two things in common: They require the consumption of natural
resources, and they result in the creation of waste. Driving requires the manufacture of a vehicle
and burning gasoline to move it. Similarly bikes must be manufactured from a combination of
metal, paint, and synthetic rubber. Shopping bags require the paper, cloth, or plastic to produce.
And growing food may require irrigation, fertilizer, and/or pesticides and always requires energy
to harvest and move the crops some distance to market. Thus any time that we manufacture and
transport things, we consume resources and produce waste products.
     Clearly, though, some activities consume fewer resources and produce less waste than others.
This was the case in the first of each pair of choices previously listed. Biking produces less
waste than driving; reusing cloth bags produces less waste than continually throwing ones away.
While indeed what you do as an individual may seem negligible, the collective actions of 6.6
billion people are significant. They add up to waste products that not only cause local changes to
our air, water, and soil, but also have regional and global effects.
                                                      You need to think by the billion. One cooking
                                                 fire? No problem; well, unless the flames
                                                 accidentally start a brush fire. But imagine a few
                                                 billion people across the planet each tending an
                                                 individual cooking fire. Add in fires from those
                                                 who cook using stoves, brick ovens, and outdoor
                                                 grills. Now you have a lot of fuel being burned!
                                                 As you will see in Chemistry in Context (Chapters
                                                 1, 3, 4 and 6) each fuel that is burned releases
                                                 waste products into the atmosphere. Some of these
                                                 products are highly unfriendly to our lungs, our
eyes, and of course to our ecosystems as well.
     Today, the waste products we release are unprecedented in their scale and in their potential to
do irreversible harm to our planet. Particularly worrisome is that our actions (by the billion) are
destroying the habitats of other animal and plant species on the planet. For example, as you were
reading this page, odds are that a creature on our planet went out of existence. Although
endangered animals such as polar bears and migrating song birds may have captured the
attention of the media, plant species – thousands of them – also are threatened with extinction.
Of course extinction is a natural phenomenon. It has been proceeding for millions of years at the
rate of one out of about each million species per year. But today the rate is many times faster
than in the past, more typically on the order of 1000 species per million per year. The causes
usually are related to the destruction of local specialized habitats.

     Underpinning much of our consumption and waste production is (you guessed it) energy.
The need to find energy sources that are both clean and sustainable is perhaps the major
challenge of our century. Currently, though, the rate at which we consume nonrenewable and
renewable resources [MN#1] and add waste to our air, land, and water is not sustainable. This
probably comes as no surprise to you. From your previous studies in other fields, you may
already be well aware of this.
    You also probably recognize that
with a problem comes the opportunity to
apply creativity and find solutions. We
hope you are asking yourself, “What can
I do to make a difference in the world?”
We hope you are also asking how you
can join your efforts with those of
others. As you seek to answer these
questions, think of chemistry as an
integral part of the solution.
    Chemistry is called the central
science. Indeed, chemists today find
themselves at the center of the action
when it comes to energy and the
sustainable use of resources. Chemists
are challenged to use what they know and to do so responsibly and with reasonable haste. The
same, of course, is true for citizens in general and you in particular. You are a key player! In this
book, we will support you in this role.

What does it mean to use the resources of our planet in a sustainable manner? We hope from
your other studies that you can answer this question at least in part. Indeed, the term
sustainability is used widely across many fields. The term may even be tossed out so widely that
its meaning has been lost. For this very reason, we want to clarify the term right here at the start.
    In Chemistry in Context, we will use a frequently quoted definition of sustainability:
“Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet
their needs.” These words come from a 1987 report of the United Nations entitled Our Common
Future. [MN #3] [Ref #1]. The foreword to this document is only a few pages, yet it contains
some of the most compelling language ever written. Here we reprint part of it to help you better
understand the context in which sustainability was defined.

 Report on the World Commission on Environment and Development
 (“Our Common Future”)

 Excerpts from the Foreword by Gro Harlem Brundtland

 “After a decade and a half of a standstill or even deterioration in global cooperation, I believe
     the time has come for high expectations, for common goals pursued together, for an
     increased political will to address our common future.”

 “The question of population – of population pressure and human rights – and the links between
    these related issues and poverty, environment, and development proved to be one of the
    more difficult concerns with which we had to struggle.”

 “The fact that we all became wiser – learnt to look across cultural and historical barriers, was

 “[But] First and foremost our message is directed towards people, whose well-being is the
     ultimate goal of all environment and development policies. In particular, the Commission
     is addressing the young. The world’s teachers will have a crucial role to play in bringing
     this report to them.”

 “If we do not succeed in putting our message of urgency through to today’s parents and
     decision makers, we risk undermining our children’s fundamental right to a healthy, life-
     enhancing environment. Unless we are able to translate our words into a language that can
     reach the minds and hearts of people young and old, we shall not be able to undertake the
     extensive social changes needed to correct the course of development.”

 “In the final analysis, I decided to accept the challenge. The challenge of facing the future and
      of safeguarding the interests of coming generations.”

 Oslo, 20 March, 1987

    With our definition come three closely related and interconnected ideas. First, we need
viable economies. Second, we need to protect our ecosystems. And third, we need to couple our
actions with a sense of equity and justice.
    Sustainability is coupled with conservation. You can’t have one without the other!
Although people may equate conservation with undue self-sacrifice, the equation is far more
complex – and certainly more interesting – than simply this. Conservation involves more than
individual choices. It also requires the vigorous development of community-based technologies
that are focused on conservation and improved efficiency, the use of renewable resources
[MN#4], and the prevention of waste.
    Sustainability also is coupled with a sense of urgency. Currently, we humans are not using the
resources of our Earth in a manner that is sustainable. This state of affairs has put the sustainable use
of resources squarely on the radar screens of scientists and the professional societies of which
they are members. Read, for example, the words of botanist Peter H. Raven in his 2002
presidential address Science, Sustainability and the Human Prospect to the American
Association for the Advancement of Science:

        “We must find new ways to provide for a human society that presently has
       outstripped the limits of global sustainability.”
   Not only must we find these ways, but also we will be judged by our success in employing
them. Former president of the American Chemical Society, Bill Carroll points out in The
Chemistry Enterprise in 2015, a report that he co-authored in 2005.
       “By 2015, the chemistry enterprise will be judged under a new paradigm of
       sustainability. Sustainable operations will become both economically and ethically

A Triple Bottom Line
    Scientists aren’t the only ones. If you are a business or economics major, you already may
know that the business sector is well aware of the need for sustainability. In fact, sustainable
practices can offer a competitive edge. Historically, the bottom line for a business has been to
turn a profit, preferably a large one. Today, however, the success of a corporation is defined in
multiple ways, including whether it is fair and beneficial to the people of the particular society in
which it is based. Corporations also are judged by the extent to which they are sustainable with
respect to the wider environment.
    Taken together, these benefits to the economy, to society and to the environment have
become known as the Triple Bottom Line. Sometimes this is shortened to Profits, People, and
the Planet! Figure 1 shows one way to represent the Triple Bottom Line. At the center of the
figure lies the economy, that is, all the ledger books that need to be filled with black ink. But no
economy exists in isolation; rather, economies reside in the wider context of a society whose
members also must benefit. In turn, all societies reside in a larger environment, ultimately our



Figure 1
A representation of the Triple Bottom Line.

     Failure at any level of Figure 1 can translate into harm for the business. Conversely, success
at all levels can provide a competitive edge. Ultimately, what is good for the society as a whole
also is good for the people and for the planet. Businesses can make money; at the same time,
they can benefit society and minimize their environmental impact by using less energy,
consuming fewer resources, and creating less waste. A triple win!
     News reporters have been documenting the swing in business trends. For example, here is a
story about Clorox, a company that produces the bleach that you are likely to find in the cleaning
supplies aisle of your local supermarket. We reproduce part of a news article about Clorox here,

courtesy of Chemical and Engineering News, the weekly publication of the American Chemical
Society. We added the green highlight to point out the how the company sees benefit in being

                       Greener Cleaners: Consumer demand for environmentally friendly
                       cleaning products has changed the game for chemical suppliers
                      This month, Clorox, a company almost synonymous with the environmental
                      lightning rod chlorine, is going national with what might seem like an unlikely
                      product line: a family of natural cleaners sold under the Earth-friendly name Green
                           That a consumer products giant like Clorox would venture into the market for
                      so-called green cleaning products says a lot about how much the home care
                      industry has changed in the past two years. Once solely the province of fringe
                      players, green or sustainable cleaners are attracting the interest of big corporations
in America and elsewhere. In such products, companies see both a growing market and a way to burnish
their environmental credentials. (C&EN, Jan 21, 2008)

At the time the article was written, posted on the Clorox corporate web site was a video about the
new green cleaning products. The sound track described the “natural plant-based cleaners …
without harsh chemical fumes or residues.”
    The story does not end here. On the web site, you also will find forcefully written
environmental statements. The corporation is working towards “using as little packaging material
as needed to do the job” and “using recycled material wherever it is environmentally and
economically sound to do so.” Clearly Clorox is responding to the negative image alluded to in
the news article, “a company almost synonymous with the environmental lightning rod chlorine.”
At issue is the chlorine-containing bleach, better known as sodium hypochlorite. We will revisit
this compound in the next section.
    Before we leave the green cleaning scene, please consider one more news item on laundry
detergents. This one involves the placards (usually green) that hotels place near your bed giving
you the option of not having the sheets changed nightly. What happens, though, when those
marketing soap products stay at these hotels? Do they choose the option that means they sell less
of their detergent? Again, we added the green highlight to emphasize the new corporate bottom

                        Having It All: Chemical makers supplying the detergents industry
                        seek both sales and sustainability
                         Although it’s lush to the point of excess, the Boca Raton Resort & Club in
                         Florida does demonstrate a modicum of environmental responsibility with a card
                         placed on nightstands informing guests that bed sheets won't be removed and
                         washed unless requested.
                            This card no doubt presented a conundrum to chemical industry executives
                         who were at the resort earlier this month for the Soap & Detergent Association's
                         annual conference: Should they or shouldn't they participate in a program
                         intended to cut consumption of the very products they are there to sell?
     But then, the challenges of good environmental behavior have been on the minds of all participants in
the cleaning products industry lately. Everyone from the government to retailers to consumers seems to be
demanding environmentally sustainable products. … Still, the chemical companies that supply ingredients
to the cleaning products industry see robust sales and environmental stewardship as mutually obtainable.
Rather than cut back on surfactants or other cleaning chemicals, they are advising their customers to

formulate products with ingredients that have smaller environmental footprints. (C&EN, February 18,

 Consider This #1 Green Conundrums
 Put yourselves in each of these two roles:
 a. You are a manufacturer attending the annual Soap & Detergent Association
 conference. You find a card on your pillow saying that your bed sheets will not be
 washed unless you request it. Do you request it?
 b. You are the hotel manager. Do you remove the card from the pillows, knowing that
 Soap & Detergent Association people are coming to town?

The point? Please recognize that the debates on how best to be “green” are likely to major
concern over your lifetime. Chemistry in Context will present issues like these, at the same time
arming you the chemical knowledge you need to be a responsible citizen who can make
informed choices.

You may have heard the expression “cradle-to-grave.” This catchy phrase offers a frame of
reference for any item that you might purchase. Where did the item come from? And where is it
going after you dispose of it? Corporations recognize the importance of thinking in these terms.
    For example, the Clorox web site that we just discussed asserts that the bleach you purchase
“starts as salt and water and ends as salt and water.” [Ref #3] We agree. However we urge you
to consider more than just the product. What chemicals were used to manufacture it? In the case
of bleach, the chemical chlorine is involved, a substance that will come up in almost every
chapter of Chemistry in Context. How was the chlorine produced and transported? What waste
products were created in its manufacture? Cradle-to-grave means thinking about every part of the
    Companies should take responsibility – as should you – for items from the moment the
resources to make them were taken out of the ground (or the air or water) to point at which the
item was ultimately “disposed of.” Think in terms of items such as batteries, plastic water
bottles, tee shirts, cleaning supplies, running shoes, cell phones – anything that you buy and (one
way or another) discard.
    Cradle-to-grave has its limitations. As an illustration, let us follow one of those plastic bags
that some supermarkets provide for your groceries. Plastic bags are usually made from
petroleum. Therefore, the origin (= cradle) of this plastic bag most likely was crude oil
somewhere on our planet; let’s say Canada. The oil was pumped from a well in Alberta and then
transported to a refinery. At the refinery the crude oil was separated into fractions (see Chapter
4). One of the fractions was then cracked into ethylene, the starting material for a polymer (see
Chapter 9). This ethylene was polymerized and formed into polyethylene bags. These bags
were packaged in a cardboard carton that was trucked to your grocery store. Ultimately, you
purchased some groceries and used one of the bags to carry them home, unless of course you
brought your own bag with you.
    As stated, this is not a cradle-to-grave scenario. Rather, it was cradle-to-your-kitchen,
definitely several steps short of any graveyard. So what happened to this plastic bag after you
were done with it? Did it go into the trash and eventually to a land fill? We use the term “grave”

to describe wherever an item eventually ends up. In case you are interested, one trillion plastic
bags (give or take) are used each year in supermarkets. Only about 5% are recycled. The rest
are in our landfills or littered across our planet. As litter, these bags begin a 1,000 year cycle
(again give or take) of slow decomposition into carbon dioxide and water.
     Cradle-to-a-grave-somewhere-on-the-planet is poorly planned scenario for a supermarket
bag. A far superior option would be to remake the bags into another product. If each of the
trillion plastic bags were to serve as the starting material for a new product, we then would have
the more desirable situation of cradle-to-cradle.

 Consider This #2 Cradle-to-what of an Aluminum Can?
 Most of the time you think about aluminum cans in terms of buying them, consuming
 their contents, and then (hopefully) recycling them. Now please think more broadly.
 Aluminum comes from an ore, usually bauxite. Where did the bauxite come from?
 Where was the ore refined to produce aluminum metal? Where was the metal shaped into
 a can? How did this can land on the shelves of your neighborhood store? What happened
 to it after you drank the liquid it contained?

    As you can tell from these examples, it is not just the decisions of manufacturing folks that
matter. Your actions count as well. What you buy, what you discard, and how you discard it all
are worth your consideration. The choices that we make today will affect not only our children
tomorrow, but also our own quality of life today.
    At the risk of repeating ourselves, we remind you that the current state of affairs in which we
consume the nonrenewable resources of our planet and add waste to our air, land, and water is
not sustainable. With urgency we revisit the words of Peter H. Raven: “We must find new ways
to provide for a human society that presently has outstripped the limits of global sustainability.”
We now explain why.

Your Ecological Footprint
You probably know how to estimate the gas mileage of a vehicle. Likewise, you can estimate
how many calories you consume. Although you may not currently know how much air you
breathe in a day, in the first chapter of Chemistry in Context, you will figure out how to estimate
this as well.
    But now think bigger than these. How do you estimate your impact on the planet?
Fortunately, others already have grappled with this question. Their answer is to “think footprint”.
You can see the footprints that you leave in sand or snow. Similarly, you can see the muddy
tracks that you leave indoors. Along these lines, there now is a way to “see” the footprint that
you lifestyle leaves on Planet Earth.
    The ecological footprint is an attempt to measure the amount of biologically productive
space (land and water) necessary to support a particular standard of living or lifestyle. For the
average U.S. citizen, the ecological footprint is about 9.7 hectares (24 acres) [MN #5]. Thus, if
you live in the United States, it requires this amount of land to feed you, clothe you, and to
provide you with a dwelling complete with the creature comforts to which you are accustomed.
    Things would be quite different if you lived elsewhere. According to 2003 data, the
ecological footprint of a typical person in China was 1.6 hectares, in Mexico 2.6 hectares, and in
France 5.6 hectares. The world average in 2003 was 2.2 hectares. Thus, in comparison to the rest
of the world, the people of the United States have very large feet!

Figure 2
A comparison of global footprints.
[we need design a figure showing footprints scaled by

     How much biologically productive land and water is available on our planet? At best we can
estimate this by including regions such as crop lands and fishing zones, and omitting undesirable
regions such as deserts and ice caps. Currently, the value is estimated at about 11 billion
hectares (roughly 27 billion acres) of land, water, and sea surface. This turns out to be about a
quarter of the Earth’s surface [ref #2]. Is this enough to sustain everybody on the planet with the
lifestyle that people in the United States have? The next activity allows you to see for yourself.

       Your Turn #3 Your Individual Share of the Planet
 We stated earlier that we estimate about 11 billion hectares (27 billion acres) of
 biologically productive land, water, and sea available on our planet.
 a. Find the current estimate for the world population. Cite your source.
 b. Use this estimate together with the one for biologically productive land to calculate the
 amount the land theoretically available for each person in the world.

If you did the math, you came up with a value (about 1.6 hectares or 4 acres) that shows that
many nations are living ahead of Earth’s means of producing for us all. Now let’s do the next

        Your Turn #4 How Many Earths?
 Let’s say that you live in the United States, a country in which the ecological footprint is
 about 9.7 hectares (24 acres) per person.
 a. Find the current estimate for the population of the United States. Cite your source
 b. Use this estimate to calculate how much biologically productive land people in the
 U.S. require.
 c. For the value you calculated in b, what percent is it of the 11 billion hectares (~ 27
 billion acres) of biologically productive land available on our planet?

The results are even more sobering if we take this calculation one step further. Let’s now say
that everyone on the planet lived liked the average citizen in the United States. If this were the

  6.8 billion people 3 9.7 hectares/person 3 1 planet/11 billion hectares = 6.0 planets

Thus, to sustain this standard of living we would need 5 more Earths in addition to the one we
currently have! Clearly the Earth cannot sustain 6.8 billion people living the lifestyle of current
U.S. citizens.
    We have only one Earth. This limit is non-negotiable. Since 1960, our population and
economic development have risen dramatically. Similarly, the global ecological footprint also
has risen (Figure 3). Coupling these two assertions, we estimate that humanity used the
biological capacity of 1.25 earths in 2003. This overshoot can not be sustained. It is like taking
spending not only the interest from your bank account but also part of the principle. This can
occur for a period of time but eventually your bank account will zero out!

Figure 3
Ecological Footprint and Biocapacity (1961-2003) [Ref #5] MIKE – I do not understand this graph, especially what
is on the x-axis. Can you help or perhaps find a better figure? For now I left this paragraph in but realize it may
need to come out.

Our responsibilities as citizens and chemists
We humans are entrusted with the special responsibility of stewardship for the planet. But we
have discovered that living out this responsibility is no easy task. Each chapter in Chemistry in
Context highlights a particular area of concern. With each, we will work with you on two related
tasks: (1) figuring out where your responsibilities might lie, and (2) finding ways to act on them.
    Chemists likewise are being called to task. In the publication The Chemistry Enterprise in
2015, co-authored by Bill Carroll from Occidental Chemical Corporation, a former president of
the American Chemical Society, we read:
    “By 2015, the chemistry enterprise will be judged under a new paradigm of
    sustainability. Sustainable operations will become both economically and
    ethically essential.”

     How do chemists meet the challenges of sustainability? The
answer lies in part with “green chemistry,” a set of principles originally
articulated by people at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
and now actively pursued by the American Chemical Society (ACS).
Green chemistry is the name given to a set of efforts to use less
energy, create less waste (especially toxic waste), use fewer resources, and in some cases use
renewable resources.
     Recognize that green chemistry is a tool in achieving sustainability, not an end in itself.
Nonetheless, as the 2000 article “Color Me Green” in Chemical and Engineering News, the
weekly magazine of the ACS, pointed out,
     “Green chemistry represents the pillars that hold up our sustainable future. It is
     imperative to teach the value of green chemistry to tomorrow's chemists.” [Ref #7]
Actually, we believe that it is imperative to teach the value of green chemistry to citizens as well,
which is why applications of green chemistry are woven into every???? chapter of Chemistry in

    But to get you started, here at the opening we list six principles of green chemistry. Use
these as a handy reference. Each is designated with the same green chemistry icon that will
appear in the each????? chapter.

         1. It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it is formed.

        2. It is better to minimize the amount of materials used in the production of a

         3. It is better to use and generate substances that are not toxic.

         4. It is better to use less energy.

         5. It is better to use renewable materials.

         6. It is better to use materials that degrade into innocuous products at the end of
     their useful life.
         (Adapted from the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry by Paul Anastas and John Warner)

     Begun under the EPA’s Design for the Environment Program, green chemistry leads to
cleaner air, water, and land. Why? Chemists are now designing new processes (or retooling older
ones) to make them more environmentally friendly. We call this “benign by design.” Every
green innovation does not necessarily have to be successful in achieving all six of these
principles. But attending to several is an excellent start.
     For example, an obvious way to reduce waste is not to have chemical reactions that produce
them in the first place (principles #1 and #2). Chemists now aim to have most or all of the atoms
in the reactants end up in the products, rather than end up as waste. This “atom economy”
approach can be used for the synthesis of pharmaceuticals, plastics, pesticides – you name it. The
approach saves money, materials, and minimizes waste. The connection between green
chemistry and the Triple Bottom Line should be apparent!
     Another way to be “benign by design” is to minimize toxic substances. The idea is to
eliminate them as starting materials and to minimize their formation as waste??? products
(principle #3). Innovative green chemical methods already have had an impact on a wide variety
of chemical manufacturing processes. For example, the use of green chemical principles have led
to cheaper, less wasteful, and less toxic production of ibuprofen, pesticides, and of new materials
for disposable diapers and contact lenses. Green chemistry also has brought us new dry-cleaning
methods and recyclable silicon wafers for integrated circuits. Dr. Lynn R. Goldman of the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was correct when she pointed out, “Green chemistry is
preventative medicine for the environment.”

    Green chemistry efforts have been rewarded! A select group of research chemists and
chemical engineers who have developed these and other green chemistry approaches have
received the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award. Begun in 1995, it is the only
presidential-level award recognizing chemists and the chemical industry for their innovations for
a less polluted world. The theme of the award is “Chemistry is not the problem, it’s the solution.”

Back to the Blue Marble …
Before we send you off to Chapter 1, we should revisit the 1987 United Nations document Our
Common Future (or the Brundtland Report). This is the source from which earlier we drew our
definition of sustainability: “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability
of future generations to meet their needs.”
    The foreword to this report was written by the chair, Gro Harland Brundtland. [ref #4]. His
words call us back to the image of Earth from space, the one with which we opened this book.
Brundtland writes:

             “In the middle of the 20th century, we saw our planet from space for the
             first time. Historians may eventually find that this vision had a greater
             impact on thought than did the Copernican revolution of the 16th
             century, which upset the human self-image by revealing that the Earth is
             not the centre of the universe. From space, we see a small and fragile
             ball dominated not by human activity and edifice but by a pattern of
             clouds, oceans, greenery, and soils. Humanity's inability to fit its
             activities into that pattern is changing planetary systems, fundamentally.
             Many such changes are accompanied by life-threatening hazards. This
             new reality, from which there is no escape, must be recognized – and
We echo the words of Gro Harland Brundtland. We have before us a new reality from which
there is no escape. We need to recognize this and act accordingly. With this textbook,
Chemistry in Context, and with you, a student of chemistry, we will strive to do these both.


       1. Calculate your own ecological footprint. Feel free to use one of the web sites suggested
at the Online Learning Center.

      2. Read the full text of the Foreword to the Brundtland Report. It is only a few pages in
length, but some of the most compelling language ever written. Pick a small section of the text
and write a short piece that connects it to something you care about. You may choose a stance of
agreement or disagreement. You can find a link to the document at the Online Learning Center.

      3. The “Blue Marble” images and photographs have inspired many writers. You can find
many others grouped for viewing on the internet. Select one and write a response of your own.
Again, you can find a link at the Online Learning Center.

     4. The principles of green chemistry are not just for chemists. Are you an economics major?
Are you going to enter the profession of nursing? Are you planning to teach? Maybe you spend
time gardening. Or perhaps you commute on your bike.
a. Jot down some thoughts about your life now (and perhaps a bit about your future as well)
b. Pick two of the principles of green chemistry and show how they connect to your life and/or
intended profession.
5. If you check newspaper and magazine advertisements, you are likely to find some that
showcase the advantages of green this or that. Find one and read it closely. What do you think –
is it a case of “greenwash,” in which a corporation is trying to make one tiny green drop in an
otherwise wasteful bucket appear as a selling point? Or is it a case of a real improvement that
significantly reduces the waste stream. Note: Quite possibly you may not be able to tell. For
example, removing 7 tons of waste may sound large unless you know that the actual waste
stream is in the billions of tons.
6. The mission statement of the American Chemical Society is “To advance the broader
chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people.” Make an
argument why all of the final six words of this statement are important.


(Please forgive that MNs skip or are out of order. Once the dust settles, I will renumber them)

[MN#1: Nonrenewable resources are finite in supply, such as crude oil and metal ores. Once we
use them up, they are gone.]

[MN #3] Our Common Future is also called the Brundtland Report, named after Gro Harlem
Brundtland, the man who chaired it

[MN #4: Renewable resources are expected always to be available. They include sunlight, wind
and wave energy, and timber.]

[MN #5 A hectare is 10,000 square meters or 2.471 acres.]

(Same thing with references being out of order. In the past, we have not included references at
the end of a chapter. My objective in including them here is to keep track of my sources.)

[Reference #1:]

[Reference #2: from Current Methods for Calculating National Ecological Footprint Accounts, Kitzes et
al Science for Environment and Sustainable Society Vol. 4 No.1 1-9, this off the web at

[Reference #3: Clorox references:
is proven to be versatile as a disinfectant and a powerful cleaner in your home. In fact, it's so powerful
that it is often perceived that bleach is harmful for the environment. But the fact is that bleach starts as
salt and water and ends as salt and water. The end product contains no free chlorine, and it quickly breaks
down into essentially salt and water during or after use.

[Reference #4 From Brutland report
Chairman’s forward]

[Reference #5, Science for Environment & Sustainable Society Vol.4 No.1 2007
Research Center for Sustainability and Environment Shiga University, Current Methods for
Calculating National Ecological Footprint Accounts
Justin Kitzes*1, Audrey Peller, Steve Goldfinger, and Mathis Wackernagel
Global Footprint Network]

William F. Carroll, Jr., Occidental Chemical Corp., ACS President 2005
Douglas J. Raber, GreenPoint Science]

[Reference #7 Color Me Green, Chem. Eng. News 2000, 78, 49-55.

Other useful information to keep for now
hectares to acres converter

A unit of area equal to 10,000 square meters (m2), that is, measuring 100 m x 100 m.
Equivalent to 2.471 acres


11 billion hectares / 6.8 billion people in world = 1.61 hectares x 2.471 hectacre/acre
                                           = 3.997 acres

people in US = 305 million x 24 acres = 7,310 million acres = 7.310 billion


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