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Prince William to Billionaires: Fix the Climate before Jaunting to Space

Warning of the terrible toll the climate crisis is already taking on youth mental health while condemning the moral vacuity of space tourism, Prince William has urged “the world’s greatest brains and minds” to focus on repairing the planet they live on now.

The eventual heir to the UK throne made his latest plug for climate action in an interview with the BBC podcast Newscast a few days before awarding five recipients with his inaugural £1-million Earthshot Prize, writes BBC News. The name of the prize hearkens back to the 1960s when then-U.S. president John F. Kennedy made his famous “moonshot” pledge to have an American set foot on the moon within 10 years. 

Resolutely focused on this planet, the Earthshot Prize is dedicated to rewarding and encouraging environmental restoration and protection efforts.

Among the 15 initiatives shortlisted for this year’s prize were “The Blue Map App”, China’s “first public environmental database enabling citizens to hold polluters to account”; solar-powered energy capsules (called Reeddi Capsules) out of Nigeria; and SOLbazaar, “the world’s first peer-to-peer energy exchange network in a country on the front-line of climate change,” out of Bangladesh. The five winners were:

• The City of Milan, Italy, for a food recovery policy that redirects surplus food to charities and food banks;

• Costa Rica, for a national system to reverse deforestation by paying citizens for restoration activities;

• Takachar, a social enterprise based in India that develops technology to reduce air pollution from agriculture;

• Coral Vita, a network of farms in Bahamas that grows coral to be replanted in oceans;

• Enapter, a technology company aiming to help turn renewable electricity into hydrogen.

Connecting the urgent need to stop the climate chaos unfolding everywhere on Earth to the current vogue for carbon-intensive space tourism courtesy of billionaires Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk, Prince William said he had “absolutely no interest” in a rocket junket to the edge of space.

Instead, he said, the kind of brilliance that went into building something like Bezos’ Blue Origin sub-orbital capsule should be focused on “trying to repair this planet.”

Himself a father of three, Prince William warned of “a rise in climate anxiety,” especially among children and young people whose “futures are basically threatened the whole time.”

He challenged adult viewers to look back to their own childhoods and “remember how much it meant to be outdoors and what we’re robbing those future generations of.”

The Guardian reports that, in the hours following the Newscast interview, Queen Elizabeth was overheard during a livestream of the opening of the Welsh parliament, declaring herself decidedly unamused by the pattern of world leaders seeming to give little more than lip service to the climate crisis. Speaking with the Duchess of Cornwall and the parliament’s presiding officer, Elin Jones, the Queen said, “It’s really irritating when they talk, but they don’t do.”

The Queen also expressed her disapproval for the many national leaders who’d yet to say they would attend COP 26, which begins October 31 in Glasgow. At time of writing, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, India’s Narendra Modi, Australia’s Scott Morrison, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and China’s Xi Jinping had not yet confirmed, though Morrison subsequently bowed to international pressure and agreed to make the trip.

The worry, indignation, and irritation from members of the UK monarchy came a few weeks after 100 children delivered a 100,000-strong Wild Card petition to Buckingham Palace. In what BBC describes as a “polite protest,” the children, accompanied by wildlife expert Chris Packham, spent several hours singing and dancing in front of the palace, their generally merry demeanour belying the urgent seriousness of their request: that the Royal Family commit to turning swaths of their vast landholdings (800,000 acres) back to a wild state, a process that could include reintroducing species such as the wild boar, wolves, and the white stork.

Pulling no punches on their timeline, the children asked their royals to commit to their rewilding plan in advance of COP 26.