6 Aug 2012
Chemistry is an essential part of everyday living, although there are those who regard the products of the chemical, agrochemical and pharmaceutical industries as things to be avoided. They advocate a future in which all is ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ but this might eventually take us back to the past, and a past in which lives were blighted by hunger, disease, dirt, and ignorance.
Of course, the current route to the future, with its reliance on fossil resources, is also a dead end, one that will be blighted by shortages and climate change. But there is a third way, and that relies on sustainable resources managed by chemists and this could ensure that the benefits we enjoy today can be enjoyed by our grandchildren in this century, and their grandchildren in the next.
The first of our autumn series of free Public Evening Lectures, 2050: Sustainable UK? will look at the things we regard as essential to a civilised lifestyle: a secure food supply, clean drinking water, a family car and the fuel to run it, healing drugs, a comfortable home - and even sports equipment. All will be put at risk in a world where the population threatens to exceed 9 billion by 2050, unless we can produce what we need sustainably.
Dr John Emsley argues not only that we can do this, but that we can almost do it on this overcrowded island - provided we invest in chemistry and its associated industries. It is possible to produce the food, fuels, and plastics we need from sustainable biomass and recycling, and we can also ensure our drinking water remains abundant and wholesome. Here is a chance for the UK to show the world that sustainability through chemistry is possible.
Even so, there are some serious challenges we will need to tackle. How can we make cities energy efficient? And what about the elephant in the room?
About the speaker
Dr Emsley has had a love affair with chemistry since he was a boy, practicing experiments with bangs and flashes. He specialised in inorganic chemistry, with a PhD from Manchester University. His academic career, specialising in non-metal inorganic chemistry and hydrogen bonding, spanned 25 years, during which he published over 100 papers. He earned the title of Doctor of Science from London University.
He started a second career as a writer in the 1970s, which started with two textbooks and a collaboration with New Scientist magazine. Dr Emsley has also collaborated with The Independent and the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre. He has been Science Writer in Residence at Imperial College and Cambridge University. His writing has earned him nine prestigious awards, including SCI's first Science Communication Award. He is the author of twelve popular science books, including A Healthy, Wealthy, Sustainable World and Nature's Building Blocks.
This lecture is free to attend and is open to the public. Networking drinks and nibbles will be provided after the event.