Prince Charles and our Extinction
Well, the first weekend of the World Cup was successfully completed in Wellington on Sunday night with a very close and exciting match between Wales and South Africa. The start of the tournament has gone very well I think and the opening ceremony was very impressive to see live at Eden Park. In terms of the rugby on the pitch, the less-favoured teams are causing a few scares which is fantastic for a tournament that can struggle in the pool stages to avoid a succession of one-sided walkovers. Long may it continue!
In other news, Prince Charles, the UK’s (and New Zealand’s, Australia’s, Canada’s etc) future head of state has used his first speech as President of the Worldwide Wildlife Fund UK to attack our current way of living and suggested that our highest priority should be “surviving ourselves”. According to the Telegraph, he said that climate change was not the only problem, but that it helped to speed up the “rapacious” destruction of natural resources like water, land and food that we all need to survive.
The Prince worried about the extinction of much of the world’s wildlife:
“We are, of course, witnessing what some people call the sixth great extinction event – the continued erosion of much of the Earth’s vital biodiversity caused by a whole host of pressures, from the rising demand for land to the corrosive effects of all kinds of pollution" The way to protect wildlife and the humans who rely on this biodiversity was to transform the world economy so that growth is not at the expense of nature. There needed to be a revolution that would force people to change their lifestyles so that they consume less petrol, food and other resources:
“History will not judge us by how much economic growth we achieve in the immediate years ahead, nor by how much we expand material consumption, but by the legacy for our grandchildren and their grandchildren,” he said. “We are consuming what is rightfully theirs by sacrificing long-term progress on the altar of immediate satisfaction. That is hardly responsible behaviour. There is an urgent need for all of us to concentrate our efforts on sustaining, nurturing and protecting the Earth’s natural capital and, moreover, reshaping our economic system so that Nature sits at the very heart of our thinking.”
I actually have a lot of time for this way of thinking – the amount that we consume and waste today is quite staggering. When goods are so cheap we can afford to buy new items when the old ones break. There is no incentive to repair anything that is broken. This attitude contrasts with the approach to thrift and economy which seemed to be around when my parents were growing up – everything was mended, repaired and crucially, built to last for decades. My parents’ first vacuum cleaner lasted for over two decades; I was surprised the other day when I realised that mine was still going after three years. We are just not conditioned to expect something to last very long. Whether production values or expectations have changed, I am not sure.
Therefore, I think there is a need for us all to stop wasting so much, and the only way to do this is to stop relying on what we own and have to define us. Easier said than done, but keeping up with the Jones' is a sisyphean task, there will always be another Jones just around the corner.
I am also pleased that the Prince based his argument on how nature affects humans; the most important reason to protect wildlife and nature is because we rely on it and because it helps us. (While I mean here primarily that nature helps us materially, nature also helps our peace of mind and provides us with so many sources of wonder and awe and beauty.) This is surely the right way to look at things, nature is very important, but we should not be protecting it at the expense of human beings. Saving animals from extinction is great, but saving human beings is infinitely more important. So if the two go hand-in-hand as the Prince is suggesting, then I wish him good luck in his work.
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