As part of the University’s 70th anniversary celebrations, Sir David toured Keele’s new life science laboratories which have been named in his honour, meeting with staff and students to discuss their pioneering research and studies in fields such as food security, biodiversity, and global health.
The new School of Life Sciences teaching and research laboratories are part of a £45 million investment to create cutting-edge science facilities on campus to support Keele’s world-leading research and teaching, and to tackle the key challenges of the 21st Century.
As he officially opened the laboratories, Sir David said: “I am extremely lucky and I feel undeserving of this great honour. But if it means that you have the excitements, and the thrill, and the enlightenments that I have had looking at the natural world, and the sheer joy - and that you go on to care for the natural world - then I am very pleased indeed, and I am delighted to have this huge honour of having this wonderful building carry my name.”
After opening the new laboratories, Sir David gave a talk on the subject of sustainability to a packed audience, followed by a short Q&A session.
In his awe-inspiring talk to over 400 guests, staff and students, Sir David said: “Universities have a responsibility when they have an understanding of what is happening in the natural world to tell people about it, and take action about it.
“This university is showing that it understands the importance of sustainability and human beings cannot go on taking from the natural world without any care.
“I actually had been feeling that I was talking into the wind 30 years ago. Today, I believe that we are on the turning point. I believe that universities like this one, which pays particular attention to sustainability, is right at the cutting edge.
“Young people, people in universities, people with understanding about conservation and the natural world, are going to influence politicians. Things that have happened in the past few weeks show that politicians have suddenly realised they cannot ignore what is happening. That is because of the outcry of young people - because the world belongs to young people.
“The world does not belong to man alone. We are its custodians. We have the power, and the knowledge, to care for that world, and we have a moral obligation to do that.”
Sir David’s visit came on the same day that Keele became one of the first universities in the UK to declare a ‘climate emergency’, furthering the University’s commitment to promoting sustainability and investment in researching green technology.