Green Chemistry in the Hands of Christians: How to Save the World
Green Chemistry may sound like just another environmentalist movement, but it is so much more. Instead of just trying to hold things together for future generations, green chemistry seeks to take away the need for clean-up work altogether. It is a movement toward proper stewardship of the Earth.
University of Colorado campus, which is very involved in Green Chemistry
PHOTO BY STEVE RITTER
As Christians, we already have been given a mandate to be emissaries for God, commanded to save the world, in a sense. God has seen fit to use us as His instruments to bring spiritual salvation to mankind. But as Christians our mandate does not stop there. From the beginning of time mankind has been charged by God with the care of the Earth He gave to us. Some Christians would argue that the world is going to be destroyed anywayósaving peopleís souls should be our only priority. Let entropy have its way!
This is unwise. First of all, who are we to assume when or how things will end for this earth? We have a responsibility to ourselves and to all future generations, however many there may be, to obey Godís command and take the best possible care of the world for as long as it remains under our authority.
Green chemistry, though by no means a perfect solution to all environmental problems, can be a vital tool in the hands of Christians not only to save souls, but to save the physical world. It does not offer a quick-fix or promise to accomplish its goals within a specified timeframe, but the aims of the movement hold the solution to some of the planetís most pressing issues.
To give a simple definition of green chemistry is not hard: green chemistry is a movement which seeks to ameliorate the creation of waste and hazardous materials, attempting instead to provide safe, sustainable, economical alternatives to the synthetic and energetic needs of mankind. Giving a simple plan for how to implement this grand statement is much more difficult. However, it is not impossible.
The first step toward realizing the goals of the green chemistry movement is to give it strong support. Governments need to hear from voters that green chemistry is worth backing financially, even if it is hard to see immediate results. Time as well as money needs to be granted to the scientists working on safer, less hazardous methods of making the materials the world of consumers needs. It is not easy to figure out how to take a synthesis that generates toxic byproducts and change it so that the same desired product is made, but without the toxic substances made in the old process.
The next step is for scientists, industrial companies, and governments to follow some simple guidelines that some of the founding fathers of the green chemistry movement, John Warner and Paul Anastas, have put together. These guidelines, known as the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry, and more information about green chemistry can be found through the following links:
http://www.greenchemistry.ca/ this has a recent news release that demonstrates the problem of industry need to make a profit.
Green Chemistry Challenge Award,
Academy of Sciences, Washington D.C.
This is the Presidential Green Chemistry Award, given to companies each year that have made some sort of Green breakthrough.
photoís site: http://www.pyrocool.org/fire_photos/fire13.htm
The Max Planck Institute for Chemistry
You may be wondering how these rules for chemists and scientists will affect you, and why you should even bother about knowing them. The answer is that if these 12 Principles can be followed, the affect will be felt by every person on the planet. It is vital that green chemistry and the principles guiding it be known by more than just the scientists. This is because whether or not you have to worry about redesigning chemical syntheses, you should worry about the amount of waste you produce as you live out your daily life. You can make simple choices about whether or not to buy a product made through green methods instead of a non-green alternative. You can vote to support the movement and to elect politicians who likewise understand the critical need for this movement to be implemented.
Not only will green chemistry, if realized, far reduce the risk of chemical accidents that kill or disable both people and the environment, but it will help to make products cheaper by taking away the need for companies to spend funds on cleaning up pollution and toxic materials and preventing them from getting into the environment.
Ultimately, green chemistry is trying to follow the example God has given us through the natural chemical pathways found in nature. It is trying to help the human race get along with the natural world by safer, more innocuous, natural methods. And in the hands of Christians, it can be used both to help witness to the lost by showing that we care and to help mankind and the planet itself in a physical, tangible, visible way.
You can be a part of it just by spreading the word and giving your supportóyou donít need to be a chemist to be involved in green chemistry and make a difference!
Written by a team of Gordon College Organic Chemistry students.