Issue Date: November 17, 2008
Message To President-Elect Obama
Porter Robert Peoples, Ph.D., is director of the ACS Green Chemistry Institute.
AS YOU BEGIN working on the challenges facing our nation, I encourage you to engage the expertise of the scientific community—men and women who are immersed in many of the issues that carried you to the White House. They have hands-on experience, knowledge, and research-backed opinions about the environment, health care, and education. These are core issues that impact our quality of life and national security, and they are tied to other drivers including the economy and energy, which form the very essence of a sustainable future for our nation.
Americans are optimistic about the future. Although we face enormous and complex global challenges, we have the resolve, resources, and initiative to make changes in how we go forward. The American Chemical Society, with its 160,000 members, is a resource that brings together the best scientific minds of the world. These brilliant men and women are at universities, research institutes, and large and small businesses, as well as in government and nonprofit organizations. They are working to change how we utilize our environmental resources without disturbing the balance of nature, how we develop new drugs, and how we can minimize our environmental footprint. Chemists and chemical engineers are working on the next generation of products to enhance and contribute to a better life.
The ACS Green Chemistry Institute goes a step further in recognizing that the products of the future must be environmentally friendly as well as sustainable. Chemists hold the key to unlock the door to the chemistry of nature based on the founding principles of green chemistry and engineering.
Sustainability is not just a buzzword for your Administration; it is the future economic driving force for our nation. It means new jobs, new products, new manufacturing opportunities, and new educational options for young people. Sustainability means meeting the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs, and it is now being discussed in practically every business model. Your Administration can provide incentives and encouragement to continue and enhance these efforts.
Green chemistry is defined as doing chemistry the way nature does chemistry. These are principles that future scientists need to adhere to. Your Administration can highlight important accomplishments in green chemistry. Young minds with a scientific inclination should be encouraged to further their education and work on the issues that will make a contribution to humankind. The federal government, along with the private sector, should play a role in making these goals a reality. The ACS Green Chemistry Institute is one catalyst to push the green movement to new heights and to help businesses recognize that not only does it not cost more to be green, but rather there can be a very good return on their investment.
Scientists also have a responsibility to share information with the public and not just within their scientific community. From my own experience in academia and industry, I know that scientists are not always the best communicators, but it is important to inform nonscientists about the possibilities that come from scientific research. Your Administration can play an active role in making sure that everyone is talking, collaborating, sharing, and advancing green chemistry goals. These include immediate funding of the America Competes Act, passed by Congress but not yet funded, and the Green Chemistry Research & Development Act. Both acts can provide significant new funding to facilitate research at our academic institutions and can stimulate and encourage our leading corporations to invest in new sustainable technologies.
We cannot afford to let perfect get in the way of good. Let's continue the journey toward true sustainability and modify our path forward when we recognize the need for course corrections. You will be amazed at the progress made by those who have dedicated their lives to scientific advancement. We stand ready to help your Administration make a difference.
Porter Robert Peoples
Director, ACS Green Chemistry Institute
Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.
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