Rafael Cayuela Valencia
2013 | 322pp | £50
Reviewed by Jacquin Wilford-Brown
Predicting the future is notoriously difficult to do, and very easy to laugh at, even without the benefit of hindsight. In this book, Rafael Cayuela Valencia makes a very brave attempt to suggest how the chemical industry will be affected by some of the huge global challenges we face.
The book is packed with numbers, data, graphs and charts, giving a detailed analysis of social, economic, political, energy and climate change megatrends that is impressively up to date. Chapters cover how the world could and should look by 2050 (under two models: ‘business as usual’, and ‘sustainable’) and a brief history of the chemical industry, focusing on innovations. The heart of the book is in chapters four and five, detailing the impact of the chosen megatrends on selected features of the chemical industry in three geographical categories: ‘advanced countries’; Brazil, Russia, India and China; and ‘the rest’, and then how it could look in 2050. The final chapter summarises the challenges and opportunities.
Despite learning more facts about my industry than I knew existed, the density of statistics and analysis made this a tough read. Although there are many colourful charts and diagrams, these do not always help. One figure attempting to summarise the impact of all the megatrends on all the industry sectors is a triumph of the printer’s art in colour and detail. Unfortunately, it is only just readable, even with a magnifying glass. The quality of the editing could also be better: there was too much repetition, and a few typographical errors (including a couple of howlers).
For a practising industrial chemist like myself, it is comforting to read that the author believes the industry has a vital role in helping the world overcome the difficulties ahead, and that it will be successful economically and technologically. ‘A better world through better chemistry’ is a motto we can all support. Cayuela Valencia writes with obvious enthusiasm and passion about the capability of the industry to rise to the challenge, undergoing a sustainable revolution driven by climate change.