CHEMISTRY AND SOCIETY
Lydie VALADE (CNRS Toulouse, Chimie et Société / Fondation de la Maison de la Chimie, FR)
Michel CLAESSENS (European Commission, Brussels, BE)
Chemistry, both a science and an industry, achieved an impressive record of new knowledge and knowhow over the last years, in both understanding and transforming matter, and in their applications in analysis and production. Chemistry covers areas as diverse as food, health, welfare, water management, energy, transport, materials, electronics, to name a few. However, many problems arise with these activities, often associated with mass production: resource depletion, pollution, and impact on human, animal and environmental health. This objective situation is nonetheless perceived by social groups in quite diverse and sometimes subjective ways. On one side, chemists are proud of their contribution to the well-being of humanity. On the other side, parts of the population express a diffuse fear, due to the presence in their environment of a lot of manufactured products, of which the long term environmental and health effects are largely unknown. The distance and misunderstandings between the two worlds are obvious. However, many members of the chemists’ community and environmental NGOs are successfully interacting without ideological a priori on these issues. Unfortunately, these debates are often lacking visibility. As a result, the public opinion is left aside and therefore highly formatted through media reports, a problem largely amplified by the wide circulation of uncontrolled data and fake news on internet.
The 2019 international congress celebrating the centenary of IUPAC provides for the first time an opportunity to chemists to debate about the perception of their discipline by the citizens.