SUSTAINABLE CHEMISTRY & AGRICULTURE
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Some would define "Sustainable Chemistry & Agriculture" as the sector of science and industry of biological substances, from the molecular level to the finished product, derived from natural and organic resources, including also substances used as substitutes for those derived from non-renewable, usually inorganic resources. It has been a topic of serious, sometimes impassioned, debate among scientists, planners and regulators, environmentalists and producers for the better part of the second half of the last century, but particularly so during this decade and the preceding one. It meshes with concerns about world weather, desertification, disease control, the effects of globalization and culture shock. It has led to reforms in agricultural practices with wide implications for the quality of life of people in all walks of life. It has created new paradigms of sensitivity to the effects of agricultural production and to the balancing of cultural, political, fiscal and economic interests of local, national and international scope.
Environmentally sensitive Chemistry and Agriculture are so profoundly interrelated, so closely intertwined that they cannot easily be classified as separate sciences, but as a hybrid discipline melded from the concurrence of chemistry and agriculture in the search for sustainable solutions of environmental problems. One might say perhaps that "sustainable chemistry" acts as the handmaiden of "sustainable agriculture" since it seems to serve as the tool without which "sustainable agriculture" cannot flourish, but it is really far more than a mere subservient tool. It also serves to define the selection of products which sustainable agriculture must yield in order to justify itself to not just its environmental constituency, but also to those whose income from farm production needs to be maintained. It is also on the cutting edge of the technologies required in order to inspire agriculture to develop in the directions it must in order to survive.
This new science has been slow to yield profits for investors and somewhat mysterious to all but the initiated. As such, it has been characterized by marked differences of opinion between those who make their living from it and those who perceive they are otherwise affected by it. This weakness of consensus has manifested itself not least in the name by which the science is known. "Green Chemistry", for instance, a term coined not so long ago to express the preference of many enthusiasts for the technologies of this new science, has engendered such a polarization between those who thought it did not do enough to represent its scope adequately, and those who thought it did too much, that it seems to have been largely abandoned.
Despite the weakness of consensus, it seems there is an increasingly broad realization of the need for preserving resources, reducing and properly disposing of waste, maintaining the countryside, and generally paying attention to measures that do not "soil the nest". Today, one need no longer so much risk being categorized as a "fresh air fiend" or a "bleeding heart liberal" when adopting such a view, even if suspicions may never die. Instead, one needs to avoid being characterized as uninformed and inarticulate in this field, since it touches so many of our most cherished values as well as values that are still developing.
In summary, the emergence of the term "sustainable" as a qualifier of "chemistry and agriculture" testifies to a growing recognition of the economic as well as the social benefits of the value of managed farm production of substances that are "cleaner" during their journey from production until ultimate disposal. Today, because "sustainability" includes such a vast number of topics affecting the lives of nearly every individual on earth, it has an ethical dimension hardly surpassed by any other construct of the human mind.
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