Principal, Ladies and Gentlemen, the only trouble about your kindness in wanting to give me an award like this, the Fellowship, is that you’re then required to say something to sing for your cup of tea.
But if I may say so it really is a great pleasure to be with all of you here today particularly in view of the fact that, as many of you will already know, my Foundation has developed a strong relationship with Kellogg and I really am delighted that it seems to be going from strength to strength.
I must say, I am enormously touched and flattered that you should have decided to present me with the Bynum Tudor Fellowship and, therefore, to be joining so many distinguished recipients. It has also been a very special pleasure to have had the opportunity to speak rapidly to alumni, students, staff and those involved in current Kellogg initiatives. It is clear I think that since the College was founded three decades ago it has picked up significant momentum and, indeed, scale, empowering so many students to make positive changes in the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen, some of you may perhaps have noticed that I have spent a substantial part of my life trying to bring back rather important “babies” which were carelessly – or deliberately – thrown out with the bathwater in many areas of life when I was a bit younger. This depressing process threatened the loss of vital traditions and practical solutions for things that matter so much to the quality of people’s lives. Nowhere is this more apparent than the built environment where, over the last hundred years, the art of placemaking which is the underpinning of community and the foundation of civic life, has been deliberately abandoned and forgotten. At last, however, and after what seems an eternity, there are signs that it is appearing on the professional and political radar. With a near doubling of the world’s population projected in forty years, in itself a truly alarming prospect as we face an accelerating climate and humanitarian emergency, there is a real urgency to re-learn some of what we may have forgotten in terms of placemaking and to adapt that knowledge for a new set of circumstances.
The forces of rapid urbanization, climate change and natural resource depletion are so great that now is the time for different professions to combine together, with a clear focus and determination, to help solve these critical issues which will impact on the lives of millions of people for generations to come. Kellogg, it would seem, is extremely well placed in this regard, both in terms of its scale and scope, to bring people from all over the world to learn, practice and teach efficient and effective solutions to these problems. With a growing trend towards unplanned and sprawling settlements, a doubling of the world’s urban population could actually mean a tripling of the urban land mass. This, it seems, is almost incomprehensible but, if true, would have severe and serious implications for water, soil, climate and the biosphere in general.
So, as we face the perfect storm, the world’s leading academic and research institutions, such as Oxford, have a truly crucial role to play.
In this context, Ladies and Gentlemen, I could not be more delighted with the formation of the new Global Centre for Healthcare and Urbanization - a partnership between Kellogg College and my Foundation. The impact of urbanization on human health, on wellbeing and prosperity are so clear that it is surprising, to say the least, that very little research seems to exist in this area. The Centre’s potential though for convening and coordinating evidence-based research that makes the connections between urban form and human health could not, therefore, be more timely and critical. Indeed, it is only with such evidence, surrounding a compelling and clear narrative, that the leaders around the world will be able to take stronger action to ensure that unplanned settlements become less and less common and properly planned places become the norm, giving communities the physical setting in which to thrive.
If I may say so, I am also particularly pleased to see that social prescribing is another area on which this Centre will be focussing, given that my Foundation’s Health and Wellbeing Centre at Dumfries House, in Scotland, is attempting to address exactly these issues. Indeed, when planning new settlements with the right mix of incomes, uses and natural areas, the opportunities for social prescribing are huge. They not only make perfect social sense, but can be a very economically sensible way to reduce pressure on the National Health Service and help people play a more active role in their communities.
So while the challenges ahead of us are incredibly daunting, what is happening here between Kellogg and my Foundation provides me with encouragement that these initiatives will grow to meet the obvious demand. And I would particularly like to thank President Jonathan Michie and all those from Kellogg College, both for giving me this prestigious Fellowship and also for being such a valuable partner to my Foundation.
Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen.