DO YOU LIKE DOUGHNUTS?

We do! In fact, we'd like to live in a doughnut. Thanks to Kate Raworth1 from Oxford University2 and Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences3 we can describe our world as a habitable zone inside such a doughnut. Unfortunately, our 1st world modern life violates our doughnut, distorting its shapes along the social foundation and its ecological ceiling.

Modern chemistry has a direct impact on our basic supplies of food, energy, clean air and water, which is reflected in the state of our health. Indirect effects can become apparent for peace, social equity and education if such basic supplies are inadequate. What can we do to restore the doughnut? What can we do to bring the overload of planetary and social boundaries back to a healthy state?

We want to realign the chemistry in its current state along to a new track that enables us and all people on this planet to live a pleasant and comfortable life. Directions and suggestions for new approaches are available in many places. For example, Chris Slootweg from the University of Amsterdam4 calls for a triple focus on efficiency, safety and circularity to steer the development of chemistry into a sustainable future.5 The United Nations has defined 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which provide outstanding and detailed instructions for the necessary change in our thinking.6 Especially, SDGs Target #9.4 and #12.4 display highly relevant targets for reinventing a new and responsibly chemistry:

“By 2030, upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes, with all countries taking action in accordance with their respective capabilities” and,

“By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment“.7

So much to be done!

The research and development work in our group is dedicated to new thinking in chemistry as a powerful toolbox to restore the doughnut. An integral part of our work is the use of sustainable catalysis methods and the application of modern synthesis technologies, such as photochemistry and electro-organic synthesis. A particular focus is on the development of cascaded reaction routes for the synthesis of fine chemicals and active ingredients.

 

Illustration of the concept Doughnut Economics with nine indicators for the ecological ceiling and 12 indicators for the social foundation.
Credits go to DoughnutEconomics with CC BY-SA 4.0

 

 

The distorted doughnut with the existing overshoots of our planetary boundries and the current shortfalls in our social foundation.
Credits go to DoughnutEconomics with CC BY-SA 4.0

 

[1] Personal website of Kate Raworth: https://www.kateraworth.com/ (accessed 2024-02-23).
[2] Kate Raworth at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford: https://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/msc (accessed 2024-02-23).
[3] Kate Raworth at the Amsterdam University for Applied Science: https://www.amsterdamuas.com/cet/about-cet/about-cet.html (accessed 2024-02-23).
[4] Slootweg workgroup at the University of Amsterdam:  https://www.uva.nl/en/profile/s/l/j.c.slootweg/j.c.slootweg.html (accessed 2024-02-23).
[5] H. Flerlage, C. Slootweg: Modern chemistry is rubbish. Nat. Rev. Chem., 2023, 7, 593-594
[6] The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals: https://sdgs.un.org/ (accessed 2024-02-23).