Rio+20 has been bubbling along the last few days without any major announcements. Frankly, until the ‘world leaders’ arrive in a couple of days there won’t be anything newsworthy apart from the continued political squabbles over deadlines and targets. Yet, one recorded speech has reached a global audience.
Prince Charles made a speech to the conference that, as a British citizen and an environmentalist, filled my heart with joy. I don’t agree with everything that surrounds the man, but his speech espoused exactly the pragmatic, common sense sustainability thought that can truly convince people. Watch the video below. I’ve picked out four quick points that I found particularly notable.
1. Firstly, it’s fantastic that a major public figure in the this country will risk derision and make a bold statement about sustainability. It’s even better that it is our future king. This man will one day in the not too distant future become our head of state. Us British that thronged the banks of the Thames to watch the Jubilee Boat Pageant or viewed the TV coverage in our millions still believe, to some degree, in the leadership of the monarchy. Elizabeth II has not made bold pronouncements in her time and we celebrate her for her absence of public partisanship. However, on issues such as environmentalism, questions that are indisputable, a real leader must light the path.
2. I found Charles’ words on the blindness of most towards sustainability and environmentalism particularly potent:
“Like a sleepwalker, we seem unable to wake up to the fact that so many of the catastrophic consequences of carrying on with ‘business-as-usual’ are bearing down on us faster than we think, already dragging many millions more people into poverty and dangerously weakening global food, water and energy security for the future.”
The simile is a useful one. It infers that modern day life puts us in a somnambulist state in which our immediate economic or personal concerns become our sole focus. Beyond our blinkers we never see the bigger picture. ‘Wake up’ may not be a popular message but drastic action is necessary.
3. On solutions, the Prince suggests that an integrated but wide-ranging approach is the best way to convince sceptics and reverse this dangerous downward spiral. If we are to have a solution to our malaise, it is needs to consider energy, biodiversity, carbon, poverty, markers of economic growth and food production. Unless efforts are united then radical change can never occur. For example, while the Friends of the Earth Save the Bees campaign is admirable and will probably save a lot of bees, it needs to fit into a wider programme. The principles of ecology – studying organisms living in a particular ecosystem – are particularly useful here. We humans are essentially organisms living on this marvellous planet. A holistic approach is the best to effect change in the entire ecosystem.
4. Finally, if Charles is going to become king then this makes me a very happy Briton. He may have courted controversy over the years, particularly when it came to his romantic affairs, but if he is preferred to speak out on environmentalism and sustainability, and continue that as king, Britain might be able to lead the way in changing the world. The best bit: as a limited monarch without any political leanings, he is able to champion environmentalism and sustainability in a totally non-partisan way.
I say, long live the king!