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The time is right to draw the attention of chemists, educators, and others to the global status of green chemistry education. Timely, because of the mismatch between the everyday practice of chemistry teachers at the secondary and post-secondary level and high profile interrelated global initiatives that are guiding scientific and public sustainability discourse. Timely also, because of the opportunity presented to transform that educational practice, to take green and sustainable chemistry out of the aside boxes in textbooks and the margins of curriculum, and infuse it through the body of knowledge included in student learning outcomes and assessments.

While relatively little change is evident over the past several decades in curricular emphases in chemistry, interdisciplinary science is pressing forward with two important initiatives that should push scientific understandings of sustainability onto the agenda of formal and informal science educators. The first initiative rewrites our understanding of the times we live in on our planet, by moving the clock ahead on the geological time scale. An International Union of Geological Sciences blue-ribbon working group of the Sub-commission on Quaternary Stratigraphy is expected to report by 2016 on whether sufficient scientific evidence is present to formally determine that we have moved from the relatively stable interglacial Holocene Epoch to the Anthropocene Epoch [Greek ‘anthropo-’ (human), and ‘-cene’ (new)], on the geological time scale. Many expect the determination to be that we are in the Anthropocene already, an epoch on the geological time scale that is defined by the human imprint. A leading candidate for the beginning of this epoch is the industrial revolution, when we observe the beginning of steep and steady rises in numerous chemical parameters related to our planetary life support systems. A second, interconnected initiative is the systematic attempt to define and quantify ‘planetary boundaries’, the state of earth system parameters that define a safe operating space for humanity.

Is there a community of research and practice that is better equipped to give leadership in connecting these two global interdisciplinary scientific initiatives to chemistry educational practice than the green chemistry community? Green chemistry philosophy and principles, formally articulated two decades ago, have been put forward out of concern that the everyday practice of chemistry be fundamentally transformed so as to start with sustainability and safety considerations. For green chemistry to take firmer hold, the next generation of educators, scientists, and citizens needs to own the philosophy and embed it into practice. To move ahead we need to understand where we are, and this volume presents an important snapshot of trends in world-wide green chemistry education.

Contributions to this title cover a wide range of green chemistry education initiatives on different continents, and include descriptions of formal and informal learning environments at secondary, post-secondary, and tertiary levels. Green chemistry education is appropriately situated relative to global sustainability education initiatives such as the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, which ends the year this title is published. Connections are made to disciplines such as toxicology, and the crucial and often neglected area of assessment receives attention, with presentation of metrics for the ‘greenness’ of chemistry teaching.

The contributions in this book provide an important global snapshot of the progress being made in greening chemistry education practice, and point the way toward the important steps that are still needed to make mainstream chemistry education more relevant to the future of our planet.

Peter Mahaffy

The King’s University, Alberta, Canada

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