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*Treasure or Toxic?

Treasure? Or Toxic? Did you know that the rolling tires on an asphalt road have to do with stockings used by modern women? Cleaning agent for toilets has a similar composition to cosmetic products? Their common feature is – Petrochemical Industry. The raw material for the petrochemical industry is the oil from the deep seabed. Speaking of oil, most people might be directly associated with the weekly rises and declines of petrol price in the market.
 In truth, oil is a strange relic of marine life. Since the discovery of oil from natural resource, mankind has refined and developed a petrochemical industry and other derivatives, using its synthetic formula and fusion products to greatly influence and change our habits and ideas, in particularly the mass produced plastic products that are disposable, convenient, cheap, lightweight, and highly variable. We can say that we are now living in the era of plastic. From groceries and household goods, medical products to high-tech industries, the scope and use of petrochemical products is extremely broad and omnipresent, ranging from chemical fiber clothing, perfume, bottles, bags, stockings, tires, syringes, trauma dressing, mobile phone shells, to synthetic leather, etc. In addition to convenience and a wide range of life choices PC has brought to human beings, it has inevitably branched out into popular culture. In 1968, the Denish architect Verner Panton became an internationally renowned designer after announcing his creation of the first plastic chair using unity-shaping technology. The history of plastic furniture has thus begun.
 Nevertheless, the convenience of petrochemical products also brings another dimension of social and environmental problems. From early 1940 when nylon stockings were introduced that captured the heart of modern women, to the global power struggles triggered by competition for oil resources; from the death of sea turtles and dolphins because of the improper use of plastic garbage and Styrofoam, to the continuous disputes between the No. 6 Petrochemical Industry in Taiwan Mailiao and the local people, mankind’s short-term pleasures and convenience – residue material in the balloon festival, disposable plastic tableware, drifting nylon fishing nets – have all become major burdens on the planet. Not only have we lived in a self-created artificial environment, but we have also mired in the food chain of chemical synthesis.
 In the scene of fighting for scarce mineral in film “Blood Diamond,” a person from the Lion Mountain said, “Fortunately, we do not produce oil. Otherwise, the situation would have been even worse.” The far-reaching words touch upon the possibility in which the potential wars and massacres caused by energy catastrophes will be even more widespread and devastating. Has the depletion of natural resources, global warming, and the petrochemical industry brought about the possibility of a true global crisis and “An Inconvenient Truth” for humanity?

Note 1: Surfactant is an amphoteric molecule, both hydrophilic and hydrophobic, and can be divided into six types which are anionic, cationic, non-ionic, plant-based, animal-based, and powder. The general chemical products uses chemical compound in oil, due to the low cost and a wide range of applications, for the purposes of foaming, emulsifying, dispersion, lubrication, cleaning, soft, anti-rust and sterilization.
Note 2: In the sea, the deposits of dead algae and plankton on the seabed accumulated over the years and evolved into a dark and thick liquid known as oil, which existed well before the advent of the dinosaurs. It is said that oil was originally used by the Indians as a treatment for headaches, nausea, rheumatism, and deafness.
Note 3: Panton Chair is the first unity-shaped plastic furniture. Designed in 1959, mass-production for the chair could not begin until 1968 when Panton discovered the reinforced polyester. The graceful lines of the chair prove the capability of the polymer material.


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