The Prince of Wales visited Masaryk University in Brno to discuss issues related to environmental protection within his four-day trip to the Czech Republic. His Royal Highness met not only representatives of the university, but first and foremost students with whom he discussed issues related to dangers to the environment throughout the world and also in the Czech Republic. After the discussion the Rector of Masaryk University acknowledged the Prince's numerous activities, in particular those which have contributed to environmental protection, by awarding him the university's Great Gold Medal.
The Prince chose an academic setting for his visit principally because he was interested in scientific activities conducted by the university and in particular by its students active in the field of environmental research. “We are delighted to have been selected for a visit by Prince Charles due to the fact that Masaryk University conducts projects which he finds useful in relation to the future. We see it as recognition of our achievements and confirmation that we are heading in the right direction,” said Petr Fiala, Rector of Masaryk University.
The Prince arrived at the library of the university campus in Brno-Bohunice on the afternoon of 22 March to be welcomed by a trio of students, who then presented to him their academic work. Olga Bohuslavová, a student of Physical Geography, talked about recent findings on climate change and its impact on Antarctica, which the university is exploring at its own polar station (http://polar.sci.muni.cz/). Veronika Pašková, whose field of interest is environmental chemistry, told the Prince about a project which monitors toxic chemicals in the environment and their impact on our health. Veronika Štěpánková, a doctoral student at the Department of Experimental Biology, introduced a revolutionary method for the liquidation of mustard gas (yperite) which has been patented by Masaryk University.
After these three presentations the Prince moved towards tables set in a square and sat down to a discussion among twenty-five students from the Faculties of Science and Social Studies who are interested in topics related to environmental protection. In the first part of the debate the Prince asked questions about the Ostrava region and the students told him about reasons for local air pollution and discussed whether the situation there was improving. The Prince was especially to keen to know if Czechs were interested in environmental problems and what was the dominant attitude to climate change in the Czech Republic. “Personally I was surprised how easily Prince Charles was able to find his bearings within the topic and how interested he was in our view of the real situation. The good political culture was immediately in evidence, and this was reflected in his personal attitude and the course of the debate,” said Vojtěch Pelikán, one of the students involved in the discussion.
The Prince of Wales also asked which topics the students were interested in. He was most interested in information from the field of agriculture in general and the treatment of soil in particular. But it was not only the Prince who asked questions: the students asked him for advice on how to raise awareness of problems of sustainability and environmental protection in the Czech Republic. “Prince Charles emphasised the key role of the non-profit sector and the appeal to our conscience as citizens. He also highlighted the need for an interest in public affairs, for every one of us to try to change the situation, to put pressure on politicians and also the private sphere to change their attitudes,” said Vojtěch Pelikán.
Acknowledgement of activities supporting environmental protection
After the discussion Prince Charles signed the visitors’ book of the university, which dates back to 1919. After this the Prince received the Great Gold Medal in recognition of his numerous initiatives within the fields of environmental protection, support of sustainable development, and the conservation of cultural heritage. The medal was conferred by Rector of Masaryk University Petr Fiala. “The Prince was obviously delighted. He mentioned that this acknowledgement of his long-standing activities related to environmental protection really means a lot to him and that it is an encouragement to him to continue in his efforts. He said the prize was another reason for him to remember with pleasure his visit to Masaryk University,” said the Rector after the ceremony.