THE Prince of Wales warned yesterday against the pursuit of economic growth at the expense of the environment — and condemned climate change sceptics for their “corrosive” impact on public opinion.
Prince Charles used a speech at a European Parliament climate change conference in Brussels to challenge politicians to break the link between growth and the production of high-carbon goods.
And he challenged environmentalists to start selling the benefits of sustainable living, instead of focusing on what people should give up. He said a “business as usual” approach to increasing national wealth was just a short-term remedy.
“We have to see that there is a direct relationship between the resilience of Nature’s ecosystems and the resilience of our national economies.
“If the fabric of the Earth’s life-support system fragments, as it appears it may be starting to do; if those systems become weak or even collapse — essentially, if Nature’s capital loses its innate resilience — then how long does it take for our economic capital and economic systems to lose their resilience too?”
The Prince highlighted the fate of the world’s rainforests as a “graphic example” of the problem.
A third of the world’s tropical rainforests have been felled in the last 50 years and the equivalent area of nearly 24,000 football pitches every day are disappearing annually.
He said he had recently been asking himself why the public had not eagerly embraced the advantages of a sustainable future.
“My conclusion is that, for too long, environmentalists have tended to concentrate on what people need to stop doing. If we are constantly told that living environmentally-friendly lives means giving up all that makes life worthwhile, then it is no surprise that people refuse to change.”
He said his initiative last year, called Start, aimed to promote the benefits.
“I have to say, this process has not exactly been helped by the corrosive effect on public opinion of those climate change sceptics who deny the vast body of scientific evidence that shows beyond any reasonable doubt that global warming has been exacerbated by human industrialised activity.”
The implication, he said, was that those who accept the evidence of hundreds of scientists around the world are “secretly conspiring to undermine and deliberately destroy the entire market-based capitalist system which now dominates the world”.
He concluded: “I would ask how these people are going to face their grandchildren and admit to them that they failed their future.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved