This book presents the story of natural rubber, explaining its historical, social and scientific significance towards sustainable development. Hevea is a natural rubber-yielding tree and is among a few plants that have deeply impacted upon civilisation by having made present-day transportation networks possible: tyres made of natural rubber have enabled airplanes to fly, automobiles, buses, trucks and off-the-road vehicles to move. Rubbery elastic materials are indispensable in modern technology and even in the medical arena a pair of natural rubber gloves, used in surgical operations, are imperative for the safety of patients as well as medical staff.
This tropical tree is one of man’s most recently domesticated plants after the odyssey from the Amazon to England and then to Asia, when modern science was just establishing in the 18th century. The plantations in Asia managed to agriculturally mass-produce natural rubber at the beginning of the 20th century, just in time for the industrial mass production of automobiles. The reason why the cultivation of it has failed in the Amazon is discussed extensively taking Fordlandia, 1928−1945, as an example.
In the story, the unique elastic properties of natural rubber are explained and discussed in terms of modern science, and its influence toward the 21st century is analysed with sustainable development in mind.
Not only students, researchers and engineers related to natural rubber but also those interested in sustainable development will find this book informative, evoking his or her deliberation on our future.