It has never been a time in human history where all needed Goals/Targets, Knowledge, Technologies, Human Resources and Communication Tools were known, available and accessible to perform collective and global revolution that allows bringing an inclusive sustainability right in our home, Planet Earth. This said, it has never either been so critical, urgent and imperative in all human history to put all our thoughts, efforts and resources together to save Planet Earth as we have it today. Planet Earth is facing enormous existential threats because of huge pile-up of degradation in climate, environment, biodiversity and the ‘socio-economic-environment’ qualities of our life.
The journey towards ‘sustainability’ has been very long with many and continuous ups and downs. We have only understood it late and agreed on it even later. So far we have succeeded to acknowledge it and to define what sustainability is, why it is needed and how to implement and achieve it on full scale and everywhere. It is not about if we can but is rather about when and more importantly how we could be able to maintain what we so far know, put them in practical actions to build robust sustainable and resilient life. Also, with all possible means we need it to be affordable and inclusive. So, we are in the most critical part of the equation with many imperative requirements to achieve what we defined as Goals/Targets. We will expand on these issues systematically in order to connect the dots of our Ability to Sustain Life, i.e. build SustainAbility.
Goals/Targets to achieve sustainability, or to at least to achieve resilience, are already summarised in the UN-SDGs that are now ratified by all countries. It remains to have a true political well by all the member states of the United Nations and more importantly to have serious, immediate and coordinate global collective actions to promote, implement, scale-up and scale-out the UN- seventeen goals and the associated targets (https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/). The date to achieve all these ambitious goals by 2030 is not likely to be met but at least we should be on the proper roads and the appropriate tracks to do so.
Technologies that are science-based and sustainability validated need to be resilient, accessible, affordable and also adaptive for use anywhere. We have a Science-Technology nexus where science promotes technology and technology promotes science and visa versa. The cycle goes on and on where science and technology become improved and refined in a continuous non-ending process as our dynamic needs never ends but rather expand and accelerate. Among several examples on the connection between science and technology to achieve sustainable solution is how we arrived at the central role of electricity in our life (https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability/our-insights/sustainability-blog/these-9-technological-innovations-will-shape-the-sustainability-agenda-in-2019). In this context, tight and active participation of scientific and technical communities, i.e. universities, R&D institutions and industries, are essential both from the private and public sectors. This involves all the vertical and horizontal multilayered connections specially in education and the learning process. In the past century several innovations and inventions particularly in science, technology and literature including physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, earth sciences and medicine, engineering, agricultural and human sciences just to name some, have widened and deepened our understanding of global economy, politics and also promoted our efforts to achieve peace, security, safety and equity but the later ones. Still more and more needs to be done to counteract the degradation of life quality on Earth.
Knowledge to promote and implement these goals already exist and indeed anyone of us can consult Professor Google to seek information, to learn and to know about ‘what, where, why and how’ to participate in the ongoing sustainability revolution. Yet, we need to work together with responsibility, transparency and accountability across many knowledge domains (https://www.eolss.net/eolss-knowledge-sustainable-development.aspx) and not only in limited and narrow isolated disciplines based on fragmented and individual interests (http://www.developmentresearch.eu/?p=905). It is mandatory to increase our individual and collective participation with actions to work together (https://www.staff.lu.se/article/how-do-we-generate-knowledge-about-sustainable-development) with building teams, collecting and compiling appropriate knowledge as well as sharing our understanding and efforts by all available and accessible communication tools including the IoT ‘Internet of Things’.
Human Resources in this context are the bases to maximise our Ability to Sustain life on Earth by building resilient Human Resources (https://fardapaper.ir/mohavaha/uploads/2018/11/Fardapaper-On-the-importance-of-sustainable-human-resource-management-for-the-adoption-of-sustainable-development-goals.pdf). This has been evident through out the human history and during all the past transitions from the hunter-gatherer era to the agriculture revolution and all the way through the various stages of the industrial revolutions up to the post information revolution. We have now a collective human library that describes the collective human intelligence, not necessarily the human intellect. That is more or less accessible and affordable ‘Google’ to use and guide us for a better and prosperous future specially what regards the management of human resources (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/sd.2166). However, Google in itself just gives access to more or less all the known knowledge in the form of a ‘Black Box’ of ‘raw knowledge’. This access to knowledge needs to be sorted, refined and tuned for correct and proper use, also to improve through R&D for the sake of improving the global human resource capital. For developing critical skills for example Google has training and performance management programmes for human resources (http://panmore.com/google-hrm-training-performance-management). In this context, there must be a threshold of knowledge to get maximum benefit from Google which we can get through education and/or training, also through experiments and interships. By the end of the day, education and R&D are main vehicles for creating sustainable human resources empowered by the necessary knowledge.
Communication Tools are becoming increasingly available and affordable through ICT technologies ‘Information Communication Technologies’ that give us access to multiple services, businesses, education, trade, health and entertainment and are continuously shaping our daily life including for examples the diverse flora of social-media tools and instruments, e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, WhatsApp, Google Duo, private and public TV programs and….. many others. ICTs can help accelerate progress towards every single one of the 17 UN-SDGs. For example, helping to build resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation and services that allow countries to participate in digital economy and to increase their well-being and competitiveness (https://news.itu.int/icts-united-nations-sustainable-development-goals/#). These tools and the IoT ‘Internet of Things’ in general allowed to boost various types of human-to-human, human-to-machine and machine-to-machine interactions and eventually evolved more and more to sophisticated automation, ML ‘machine-learning’ and AI ‘Artificial Intelligence’ technologies. ICTs are already empowering billions of individuals around the world by improving the access to education and healthcare, and many other services such as mobile banking, e-government and social media, among others. However, there are still considerable needs to promote/improve the global interconnectness because of its great potential to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide and to develop knowledge societies, as does scientific and technological innovation across e.g. areas as diverse as medicine and energy (https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.php?page=view&type=20000&nr=579&menu=2993)
The desire to build sustainable societies is not new and it has always existed but we didn’t have access to enough knowledge, instruments and resources. These are among essential requirements that were highly lacking in integrated and coordinated manner throughout the human history. This has indeed caused serious confusion about what life on Earth is and how we can work collectively to have wealthy and healthy life on Earth. However, we give here two major examples from chemistry and physics that were indispensable for connecting science and technology on the one hand and for putting them for the service of society on the other. These two examples show that developing robust sustainable and resilient technologies do need solving, compiling and coordinating complex web of known and unknown details through huge and diverse machinery of R&D. Also, to recognize the enormous needs for at least interdisciplinary, multi-disciplinary work, if not full transdisciplinary interactions within and between, for example, physics and chemistry on the one hand, and all other scientific disciplines on the other hand. The feedbacks from physics and chemistry as well as from other sciences, e.g. earth, environment, life and human sciences, helped the evolution of sustainable science and technology specially in terms of understanding the life conditions and boundaries on earth and also to provide better services for humanity.
This said, to see the evolution in physics and chemistry in terms of sustainable developments we will put them in historical perspective what regards the addressed issues. In chemistry the periodic table of elements will be explained by life demonstrations (https://youtu.be/kqe9tEcZkno). This is to increase the added value of pedagogy in education. Indeed, all elements of the periodic table have find their way in our daily life in away or another that made our life easier but also created multiple threats through the increasing waste and pollution. We should keep in mind that we need to consider the Life Cycle ‘LC’ of all the elements from cardle to grave (https://thebusinessprofessor.com/en_US/mgmt-operations/cradle-to-grave-definition). It is not only about processing, producing, using and consuming the elements of the periodic table but it is also about what are the consequences and impacts of the waste and pollution associated with all the elements, and their compounds, in the main spheres of the earth’s system (atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, biosphere and cryosphere. Many advances in chemistry and physics and other sciences were made possible through our understanding of the chemistry and physics (also in other sciences) of the all the elements of the periodic table, and their derivative minerals and compounds that resulted from natural processes in the Earth’s system, including reactions and interactions both under laboratory conditions and more importantly in the Earth’s system.
What concerns physics we will give a historical perspective of what electricity is and how electrons as moving charges carrying energies can produce also electromagnetic interactions and waves that carry information as well. The property of electrons to interact with energy, i.e. absorb energy, carry energy and emit energy, transform and transport energy as well as get annihilated and disappear all together have found enormous uses and applications, e.g. to produce and transport electricity to be used, stored and also to transmit, mediate and communicate information. Electrons are ‘energy and information’ messengers and you can imagine what we have and can be achieved by understanding these mysterious particles that we still learn more and more about them. Indeed, electrons are the very bases of our today’s and tomorrow’s modern reality (https://youtu.be/Gtp51eZkwoI) every-day life and services.
In this context, chemistry and physics as well as mathematics have jointly allowed, to major extent, understanding the details and very secrets of the electronic structures of all the elements of the periodic table. Thereby contributed in building up an enormous and indispensable database of knowledge and models that allowed to convert light to electricity ‘solar panels’ and to store electricity in well designed, safe, efficient and effective batteries (also with help of ICT), as is the case of Lithium-Ion Batteries ‘LIB’. Yet, more is expected to come. Also, they allowed us to enjoy all modern ICTs tools such as computers, cell phones, tablets, ….. and an enormous flora of sensors and actuators that are now being used in automation and robots. These have opened many gates for shaping new industrial revolutions, i.e. AI ‘Artificial Intelligence’ and ML ‘Machine Learning’. Not to mention the household machines and tools as well as the technical needs of our industries are all an outcome of the magic services of electrons.
Enjoy the two well-selected videos that illustrate the science behind the chemistry of the periodic table and the physics of electricity.
The growing awareness of accelerated use (mining, processing and production) of several elements of the periodic table and the associated threats from pollution/waste and the risks to run out of reserves of critical elements promoted more integration of sciences. The concept of Life Cycle Analyses ‘LCA’, the rise of Circular Economy ‘CE’ and the needs to integrate Environment Social Governance in global businesses are some examples of the necessity to consider transdisciplinary approaches to integrate sciences for promoting and achieving the UN-SDGs.