Terry Collins' personal statement-Environment at CMU - Carnegie Mellon University

photoTerry Collins

Chemistry
Institute for Green Oxidation Chemistry



Western Civilization is not sustainable as it is currently constituted -flawed technologies are an important component of our sustainability dilemma. In a little over a century, science and technology have given mankind unprecedented power over the living and physical worlds. The consequences of human action now project distantly as never before in both time and space -for millennia and to the entire planet. As pointed out by Hans Jonas, this gives rise to a whole new dimension of ethical relevance for which there is no precedent in the standards and canons of traditional ethics. Thus, understanding our novel power and learning how to better foresee and avoid its downsides has become an ethical imperative. This imperative calls for creativity, courage and stamina in all fields of scholarship as we shift our strategic postures from the familiar timescales of months or years to decades or longer, while developing the thinking and the technologies required for underpinning a sustainable civilization. With goals of clean water, safe energy, renewable feed stocks, and a nonpolluting technology base, green chemistry is central to this odyssey. Green chemistry is the design and development of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate hazards. And it is unforeseen hazards such as endocrine disruption that have forever altered the meaning of chemistry to civilization (endocrine disruption threatens in real time through developmental impairment the welfare of our species and other living things). As one example of what a great sustainability university will do, it will confront the predicament of endocrine disruption. It will speak about it honestly. It will endeavor to understand the basic science. It will research how to design chemical products that are free of its scourge. And it will thus promote the promise of a future in which mankind can exist in a technically advanced civilization in long-term harmony with all other living things.