Prince William slams space race

Prince William criticised the race to leave Earth and said we instead need the world’s greatest brains and minds ‘fixed on trying to repair this planet’ – hours after Amazon chief Jeff Bezos sent Star Trek’s William Shatner into space.

The Duke of Cambridge, 39, appeared to rebuke the billionaire’s space race as he spoke about the current issues facing the climate during an interview with BBC Newscast’s Adam Fleming at Kensington Palace.

The royal also warned the Cop26 summit, where world leaders will gather in Glasgow at the end of the month to discuss climate change, against ‘clever speak, clever words but not enough action’. 

The duke’s intervention came just hours after Star Trek’s William Shatner became the oldest person in space at the age of 90, following a journey aboard Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket. 

It also comes just days after SpaceX founder Elon Musk, whose ambitious plans involve colonising Mars, revealed he would now like to build Tesla cars on the Red Planet. 

In his interview about climate change, ahead of his inaugural Earthshot Prize awards, the duke said: ‘We need some of the world’s greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live.’ 

Prince William criticised the race to leave Earth during an interview with BBC Newscast's Adam Fleming at Kensington Palace

Prince William criticised the race to leave Earth during an interview with BBC Newscast's Adam Fleming at Kensington Palace

Prince William criticised the race to leave Earth during an interview with BBC Newscast’s Adam Fleming at Kensington Palace

The royal's comments came just hours after Star Trek's William Shatner became the oldest person in space at the age of 90, following a journey aboard Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos's rocket

The royal's comments came just hours after Star Trek's William Shatner became the oldest person in space at the age of 90, following a journey aboard Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos's rocket

The royal’s comments came just hours after Star Trek’s William Shatner became the oldest person in space at the age of 90, following a journey aboard Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos’s rocket

Shatner, who is famed for his role as Captain Kirk in the 1960s sci-fi series, ventured 351,186 feet above Earth's surface with astronauts Chris Boshuizen, Glen de Vries and Audrey Powers

Shatner, who is famed for his role as Captain Kirk in the 1960s sci-fi series, ventured 351,186 feet above Earth's surface with astronauts Chris Boshuizen, Glen de Vries and Audrey Powers

Shatner, who is famed for his role as Captain Kirk in the 1960s sci-fi series, ventured 351,186 feet above Earth’s surface with astronauts Chris Boshuizen, Glen de Vries and Audrey Powers

The royal’s comments came as William Shatner, who is famed for his role as Captain Kirk in the 1960s sci-fi series, ventured 351,186 feet above Earth’s surface where he spent three minutes in weightlessness with astronauts Chris Boshuizen, Glen de Vries and Audrey Powers.  

As a shaky Shatner emerged from the capsule, he instantly wrapped his arms around the Blue Origin and Amazon founder and said he was struck by the vulnerability of Earth and the relative sliver of its atmosphere. 

‘Everybody in the world needs to do this,’ he said. 

‘To see the blue colour whip by and now you’re staring into blackness, that’s the thing. 

‘The covering of blue, this sheath, this blanket, this comforter of blue that we have around, we say, ”Oh, that’s blue sky.” And then suddenly you shoot through it all, and you’re looking into blackness, into black ugliness.’

‘As you look down, there’s your blue down there with the black up there. There is Mother Earth and comfort and there is — is there death? I don’t know. Is that the way death is?’

‘I don’t know. Was that death? Is that the way death is?’ 

Breaking into tears, Shatner told Bezos: ‘I’m so filled with emotion with what just happened. I hope I never recover from this.’

‘It’s so much larger than me and life, and it hasn’t got anything to do with the little green hand or the little blue orb.’    

The space venture came just a week after Elon Musk, 50, whose SpaceX Mars programme aims to place humans on Mars, said that the idea of an ‘off-planet factory’ for his cars may not happen in the near future, but it was a possibility in his lifetime.  

During Tesla’s shareholder meeting in Austin, Texas, Musk said: ‘So, we are many years before Tesla’s first off-planet factory.

‘I mean, I would like to see one before I am dead. That would be cool.

‘So, I don’t know what we got like 40 years-ish. Hopefully, before I am dead, basically. That would be great.’

Currently, Tesla has four manufacturing facilities on Earth – Fremont, California, Sparks, Nevada, Buffalo, New York (focused on solar energy) and Shanghai, China. 

During his interview Prince William spoke about the importance of our actions now – as he warned that inaction on climate change will ‘rob from our children’s future’.   

He said: ‘I want the things that I’ve enjoyed – the outdoor life, nature, the environment – I want that to be there for my children, and not just my children but everyone else’s children. 

‘If we’re not careful we’re robbing from our children’s future through what we do now. 

‘And I think that’s not fair. I want to use my little bit of influence… to highlight incredible people doing incredible things and will genuinely help fix some of these problems.’ 

He also raised his concerns about the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow next month.

He said: ‘I think for COP to communicate very clearly and very honestly what the problems are and what the solutions are going to be, is critical.

‘We can’t have more clever speak, clever words but not enough action.’  

The father-of-three, who shares Prince George, eight, Princess Charlotte, six, and Prince Louis, three, with his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, said his father Prince Charles had a ‘a really rough ride’ but was ‘well ahead of the curve’ on the environment.  

He said: ‘It’s been a hard road for [my father]. 

‘My grandfather started off helping out WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) a long time ago with its nature work and biodiversity, and I think that my father’s sort of progressed that on and talked about climate change a lot more, very early on, before anyone else thought it was a topic.

‘So yes, he’s had a really rough ride on that, and I think you know he’s been proven to being well ahead of the curve.  

Blue Origin boss Jeff Bezos welcomed home the four new astronauts on Wednesday morning, with Shatner earning the title of oldest person ever to go to space

Blue Origin boss Jeff Bezos welcomed home the four new astronauts on Wednesday morning, with Shatner earning the title of oldest person ever to go to space

Blue Origin boss Jeff Bezos welcomed home the four new astronauts on Wednesday morning, with Shatner earning the title of oldest person ever to go to space

The Amazon tycoon smiled at the Star Trek actor as he emerged from his capsule yesterday

The Amazon tycoon smiled at the Star Trek actor as he emerged from his capsule yesterday

The Amazon tycoon smiled at the Star Trek actor as he emerged from his capsule yesterday

Bezos's Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket carried the Star Trek actor into space yesterday

Bezos's Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket carried the Star Trek actor into space yesterday

Bezos’s Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket carried the Star Trek actor into space yesterday

Prince William (pictured right) said his father Prince Charles had a 'a really rough ride' but was 'well ahead of the curve' on the environment

Prince William (pictured right) said his father Prince Charles had a 'a really rough ride' but was 'well ahead of the curve' on the environment

Prince William (pictured right) said his father Prince Charles had a ‘a really rough ride’ but was ‘well ahead of the curve’ on the environment

‘Well beyond his time in warning about some of these dangers. 

‘But it shouldn’t be that there’s a third generation now coming along having to ramp it up even more.

‘And you know, for me, it would be an absolute disaster if George is sat here talking to you or your successor, Adam, you know in like 30 years’ time, whatever, still saying the same thing, because by then we will be too late.’

He added that his viewpoint had changed since he had his own children, saying: ‘I want the things that I’ve enjoyed – the outdoor life, nature, the environment – I want that to be there for my children, and not just my children but everyone else’s children.

‘If we’re not careful we’re robbing from our children’s future through what we do now. And I think that’s not fair.’    

During his interview the duke also expressed his concerns about a rise in climate anxiety in young people.

He added: ‘We are seeing a rise in climate anxiety. You know, people, young people now are growing up where their futures are basically threatened the whole time.

‘It’s very unnerving and it’s very, you know, anxiety making,’ he said. 

Last month Prince William announced the 15 finalists of his £50million Earthshot Prize, which aims to encourage the world’s greatest problem-solvers to find answers to the planet’s biggest environment problems. 

The prince praised his father The Prince of Wales (pictured), 72,  as he warned that inaction on climate change will 'rob from our children's future'

The prince praised his father The Prince of Wales (pictured), 72,  as he warned that inaction on climate change will 'rob from our children's future'

The prince praised his father The Prince of Wales (pictured), 72,  as he warned that inaction on climate change will ‘rob from our children’s future’

The Duke of Cambridge (pictured), 39, was interviewed by BBC Newscast's Adam Fleming at Kensington Palace in the run up to the inaugural Earthshot Prize award ceremony this Sunday

The Duke of Cambridge (pictured), 39, was interviewed by BBC Newscast's Adam Fleming at Kensington Palace in the run up to the inaugural Earthshot Prize award ceremony this Sunday

The Duke of Cambridge (pictured), 39, was interviewed by BBC Newscast’s Adam Fleming at Kensington Palace in the run up to the inaugural Earthshot Prize award ceremony this Sunday

Last week SpaceX founder Elon Musk, whose ambitious plans involve putting humans on Mars, revealed he would now like to build cars on the Red Planet

Last week SpaceX founder Elon Musk, whose ambitious plans involve putting humans on Mars, revealed he would now like to build cars on the Red Planet

Last week SpaceX founder Elon Musk, whose ambitious plans involve putting humans on Mars, revealed he would now like to build cars on the Red Planet

The finalists include a 14-year-old student who proposes using solar energy to replace charcoal to power millions of roadside ironing carts in India; a land-based coral farm in the Bahamas to restore dying coral reefs; a community project in Congo devoted to protecting gorillas; and a Kenyan enterprise that turns organic waste into fertiliser and insect protein for farmers.

Five winners will be chosen this month from the 15 finalists, and each will receive a grant worth £1million pounds.

In addition, 14 global companies and brands, including Microsoft, Unilever, Ikea and Walmart, have agreed to support and scale the ideas developed by the finalists.

The award is the most ambitious project yet launched by Prince William, who has long supported conservation charities in Africa and led work to tackle illegal wildlife trafficking. 

The prince has previously spoken about coming up with the idea for Earthshot following a visit to Namibia in 2018 and then being ‘hit by a wave of global pessimism’ at climate change talks, which he feared could foster a growing sense of despondency.

‘The headlines were dominated by a sense that world leaders were not moving fast enough,’ he said. 

‘There was widespread finger pointing and political and geographical division. To those of us following at home, it wasn’t an inspiring sight.’

The Duke of Cambridge announced the 15 finalists of his £50million Earthshot Prize last month

The Duke of Cambridge announced the 15 finalists of his £50million Earthshot Prize last month

The Duke of Cambridge announced the 15 finalists of his £50million Earthshot Prize last month

He continued: ‘It seemed to me, and this is backed up by my team’s research, that there was a real risk that people would switch off; that they would feel so despondent, so fearful and so powerless, there was a risk that any real hope of progress would come to a halt.

‘You could summarise this mood with a simple equation: urgency + pessimism = despondency.’           

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are attending the star-studded Earthshot ceremony, hosted by Clara Amfo and Dermot O’Leary, at Alexandra Palace in London on Sunday.

‘The prize itself will stimulate solutions and action that a lot of people haven’t necessarily produced yet, and so I’m hoping, you know, the prize will galvanise a lot of people in positions of responsibility to, you know, go further, bigger and actually start to deliver,’ the duke said.

Cop26 is the deadline by which countries are expected to bring forward more ambitious plans, under a five-year cycle, to get the world on track to meet the Paris goals.

The 2015 Paris Agreement commits countries to keeping temperature rises to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit them to 1.5C – beyond which the most dangerous climate impacts will be felt.

The conference begins in Glasgow on October 31.   

BBC Newscast: the Prince William interview airs on Thursday 14th October 2021. 

Watch BBC One (at 23:35), BBC News Channel and BBC iPlayer. Listen on BBC Sounds and BBC 5 Live. 

The 15 Earthshot Prize finalists

Protect and restore nature finalists

  • Pole Pole Foundation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – a community-led conservation initiative protecting gorillas and local livelihoods
  • The Republic of Costa Rica for a scheme paying local people to help revive the rainforest
  • Restor, from Switzerland, which operates an online conversation search engineering platform 

Clean our air finalists 

  • Blue Map App, from China – an environmental database
  • Takachar, from India, which turns agricultural waste into sellable bio-products
  • Vinisha Umashankar, who proposes using solar energy to replace charcoal to power millions of roadside ironing carts in India

Revive our oceans finalists

  • Coral Vita, from The Bahamas, which grows coral on land to replant in oceans
  • Living seawalls, from Australia, for its habitat panels, fitted to sea defences, mimic natural formations like rock pools
  • Pristine seas, a global ocean conservation programme from the US

Build a waste free world finalists

  • The city of Milan food waste hubs
  • Sanergy, in Kenya, which is an enterprise that turns organic waste into fertiliser and insect protein for farmers
  • Wota Box, of Japan, turns more than 98 per cent of water waste into clean fresh water

Fix our climate finalists

  • AEM Electrolyser, of Thailand, Germany and Italy, which is a green hydrogen technology company
  • Reeddi capsules, from Nigeria, are solar-powered energy capsules which can be rented and returned for $0.50 a day, cutting energy costs by 30 per cent and boosting local businesses
  • Solbazaar, from Bangladesh, the world’s first peer-to-peer energy exchange network
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