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7 January 2010

Inaugural Ceremony of Division of Environment
President's Speech
Mr Thomas Friedman, three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, delivered the Inaugural Lecture for the newly established Division of Environment.

Mr Friedman, the Honorable Mr Edward Yau, Mr Ronnie Chan, Sir Harold Kroto, Dr Christine Loh, ladies and gentlemen:

This is a perfect platform to tell the world that HKUST has launched its new Division of Environment. In 2006, Prof Stephen Hawking, the legendary scientist of cosmology was here to help launch our Institute for Advanced Study with his inaugural lecture. Today, Tom Friedman, a man no one who cares about the future of mankind can afford to ignore, is here to do the same thing for our new Division of Environment

I am personally very happy that Mr Friedman is here to give this inaugural lecture. You see I wake up reading the New York Times every morning. My week is never complete without Mr Friedman's thought-provoking column. From three years of working in Washington, I know that everybody who is anybody in the US capital reads Mr Friedman. And you know what they say? He is the writer they read in the business class.

This side of Al Gore, Mr Friedman is our man of the hour, for what he preaches about a green revolution is an ambitious mission statement for our new division.

Mr Friedman has been called many things. You can call him the guru of globalism. You can even call him the prophet of the green revolution.

But Prof Chak Chan who will later introduce Mr Friedman will tell you that he is a three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize. They have now made him a member of the Pulitzer Board, largely I suspect to prevent him from winning any more Pulitzer Prizes. But there may be a bigger prize waiting for him as the passionate advocate of a greener world and a greener future.

Mr Friedman is not just a famous writer. He is a transformational thinker. He has famously said that in future, ET or energy technology will be far more important than IT or information technology. He predicts that the next great global industry will be clean energy. For him, going green is essential for the national renewal of the US. He also has something very interesting to say about China.

The environment is no longer just a side issue. Going green, according to Mr Friedman, is a patriotic duty. Green is the new red, white and blue.

For us, solving environmental problems has a sense of urgency. Another Pulitzer winner, Jared Diamond, who happens to be a former colleague of mine at UCLA, devoted one chapter to China in his book called "Collapse", which studies how societies choose to fail or survive. In it, Mr Diamond thinks that China's enormous environmental problems are also the world's environmental problems, and that they pose a greater threat than population growth. China is the world's largest consumer of coal, and now the third largest car-making country in the world. She has serious air pollution, soil erosion problems and water woes.

All these will be the subject of intense study by our scientists and students at the new Division of Environment. Now you know why we have such an urgent mission for our new division.

Mr Friedman will be pleased to know that this new division adopts a creative, interdisciplinary approach to the study of the environment. The environmental problems we face transcend geographical boundaries and their solutions cross many different disciplines, science, engineering, business and social sciences.

I say that this platform is perfect for announcing the birth of our environmental studies division, because in addition to Mr Friedman, we will also feature local and scientific heavyweights in a panel following Mr Friedman's lecture.

We are very pleased that the government minister responsible for the environment Mr Edward Yau is here. And to him I must do a bit of hard sell. With no additional funding, our new division is made up of cross-appointed experts from various departments, science, engineering, business and social sciences etc. It is the most highly integrated program in all the local universities.

Mr Friedman will be interested to know that the Environmental Industry has been named one of six new pillar industries in Hong Kong's new economy. I can promise that with tip-top scientists such as Prof Chak Chan, himself an expert in air pollution, Mr Yau will have reasons to be proud of what we can do for the environmental cause.

This university was founded only 19 years ago. We are now ranked 35th among the world's top 200 universities, 26th in Engineering and IT, and No 1 in our EMBA program with the Kellogg School of Business. We have earned the nickname of "the Miracle University".

Now, if Mr Yau would be kind enough to exercise his influence on his colleagues in government to help loosen the government's purse strings for our environmental studies, he may look forward to even better news on the environmental front.

A term that has gained currency in this part of the world is "social harmony". Going green is definitely good for social harmony, when man learns to live in harmony with nature. Air quality is now a major factor influencing the flow of global talent. Protecting Hong Kong's environment is definitely a matter of greater economic and social self-interest. Mr Yau, you will not be sorry for your generosity.

Mr Friedman, our distinguished panelists and all of you here today, will you join me in giving Mr Yau, our official patron, the loudest house-warming applause you can give. HKUST, Hong Kong and our motherland will not forget you.

For our part, we may not be able to make this flat world less crowded, but we will certainly try to make it a little less hot.

Thank you.



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