From the Editor
Africa—two features in this issue take us there. One, by Berhanu Abegaz offers a clear and hopeful vision of how Africa can become an active participant in the global scientific forum. Abegaz presented these views just a year ago during the World Chemistry Leadership Meeting held at the IUPAC Congress in Puerto Rico in August 2011. The WCLM provided a prelude to the debate about chemistry’s role in sustainable development. A report from that WCLM was presented in the Mar-Apr 2012 CI.
Abegaz states that “A challenge of Africa’s strategic planning for development is how to unleash the power of this youth to bring about the continent’s development.” Without question, similar debates took place this year during the UN Rio+20 conference, which received abundant media coverage. Of relevance to chemists was the forum organized by ICSU, the International Council for Science (i.e., IUPAC’s parent organization), on Science, Technology, and Innovation for Sustainable Development, which provided an opportunity to reflect on science’s contribution to sustainable development since the first Earth Summit 20 years ago. Just as important, the forum explored how science can contribute most effectively in the future. Read more about the ICSU forum here.
Three months after Rio+20, it may be somewhat easier to soak in the eloquently branded theme of the meeting: “The Future We Want.” Download the pdf from www.un.org/en/sustainablefuture and there you have it: 49 pages containing 283 concise statements. It is impossible for chemists to ignore the call: Statements 213 to 223 are bundled in a section titled “Chemicals and Waste.”
“We need to better explain what chemistry is all about,” says Abegaz, recalling the story of a chemistry student who tried to explain to his mother what he was studying. That leads to the second feature of this issue that highlights Africa: a report on the Young Ambassadors for Chemistry—YAC—adventure in Tanzania. YAC initiatives, supported by the IUPAC Committee on Chemistry Education, have been reported on several times in CI, but this latest experience in Tanzania shows a new level of engagement by the local community.
In these features, the role and importance of youth is prominent. This sentiment was expressed succinctly by Desmond Tutu, who began his video address to Rio+20 with a Keynan proverb: “The world was not given to you by your parents; it was lent to you by your children.” These words said Tutu, “. . . tell you everything about the future I want—all the things people want for their own children, and for their children’s children: A fair society. A healthy planet. Clean air. Safe drinking water. Good jobs. Energy security. Food security. The right to develop in a sustainable way . . .” (www.un.org/en/sustainablefuture/tutu.shtml).
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