King Charles III weather, environmental beliefs are messy

When King Charles III took the throne last week following the death of his mother, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, some commentators were quick to point out that the septuagenarian could be the first “weather king.” After all, Britain’s heir to the throne has spent the last 50 years talking about climate change, pollution and deforestation. Much has been said about the new king’s fondness for Ecological agriculture and his open support for climate action. Last year, at the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, he urged the assembled world leaders to adopt a “war posture” to tackle rapid global warming.

But Charles’s environmental views are complex: he’s a classic environmentalist who loves nature, trees, and wildlife, and a traditionalist who fought wind power on his property, flew around the world on a private jet, and once criticized Population growth. in the developing world. He represents some of the paradoxes of a world facing climate change: a man with extreme wealth and a significant carbon footprint speaking out against global warming; a political figure with very little real political influence.

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Many of Charles’s ideas about the natural world are reminiscent of the classic environmentalism of the 1960s and 1970s, the era in which he came of age. In “Harmony: a new way of seeing our world”, a 2010 book by the then Prince of Wales, Charles criticizes what he calls the “mechanistic thinking” of factory farming, industrialization and even the Enlightenment, arguing that humanity’s attempt to separate itself from nature has created more problems you have solved. He becomes lyrical in his opposition to gross domestic product, or GDP, as a way to measure the success of nations. And—in stranger moments—he praises a “sacred geometry” that in his mind unites the architecture of Spanish mosques and planetary orbits.

The new king has also put his ideas into practice in many of his states. a house the bought in Scotland it has become a kind of environmental classroom, where children learn about the health of the soil. Your country house boasts an organic farm that Charles started in 1985. And in mind-blowing detail that has been repeated in the media many times, Charles has apparently adapted his Aston Martin to work with leftover wine and cheese.

But there is also a more controversial side to the king’s green views. Charles, like his father Prince Philip before him, has at times waded into the sticky swamp of population growth. in a speech Given at Oxford University’s Sheldonian Theater in 2010, the then Prince Charles noted: “When I was born in 1948, a city like Lagos in Nigeria had a population of just 300,000; today, just over 60 years later, it houses 20 million.”

With populations rapidly increasing in Mumbai, Cairo, Mexico City and cities in other developing countries around the world, Charles said the Earth cannot “sustain us all, when the pressures on its generosity are so great.” In “Harmony,” he reiterates the same concern, arguing that population growth, long considered too hot a problem to handle, must be addressed.

Anxieties about overpopulation are not new, and have been echoed at times by other members of the royal family and famous Britons. Philip once asked “voluntary family limitations”; David Attenborough, Britain’s most famous nature broadcaster, has said that “population growth must come to an end.”

It may seem that there is a simple logic in blaming climate change on the world’s population, which is now inching toward 8 billion. But there is a long and fraught history of thinkers from developed countries criticizing population growth in developing countries. Betsy Hartman, emeritus professor of development studies at Hampshire College, has said“In this ideology of ‘too many people,’ it is always certain people who are ‘too many.'”

And developing countries, where population growth is highest, also have the smallest carbon footprint of each additional person. In Nigeria, for example, each individual represents on average 0.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. In the United States, that number is a whopping 13.7 metric tons. Meanwhile, developed countries have birth rates that are falling or relatively stable.

The king’s enthusiasm for clean energy also has some asterisks. He has put solar panels in his London mansion and country home, but according to Britain’s Sunday Times, he has also refused to install wind turbines in the Duchy of Cornwall, a vast holding of land covering almost more than 200 square miles. (According to The Guardian, Charles once called wind turbines a “horrendous stain on the landscape”).

In a way, Charles is emblematic of how old-school environmental values ​​can collide with the needs and requirements of a decarbonized world. Being a traditional environmentalist, someone who loves trees, nature and animals, does not mean that you support the changes needed to combat climate change. In some cases, organic farming can be more carbon and resource intensive than conventional agriculture. Reducing carbon emissions to zero will require a large amount of land for solar, wind and geothermal energy; it will also require advanced technologies (better batteries, machines that suck carbon dioxide out of the sky) that Charles has historically criticized as forms of “mechanistic thinking.”

There is, of course, another paradox in the idea of ​​Charles as a “weather king.” The royal family possesses wealth that is almost unimaginable to the rest of the world. As a prince, Charles traveled around the world in a private jet. As king, he’s likely to do even more high-carbon flights, easily putting his personal carbon emissions in the top zero percent of all humans on the planet. And while the carbon footprint is a blunt instrument for measuring environmental impact, the world’s richest people, including the royal family, live in ways that are hard to reconcile with a rapidly warming planet. (according to one to studythe richest 1 percent of the world’s population produces double the carbon emissions of the bottom 50 percent).

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The question is whether now, as king, Carlos will continue to be a voice on the climate and the environment. He has said that in his new position he will not be able to be a public defender like he has in the past. “I will no longer be able to devote as much of my time and energy to the charities and issues that matter so much to me,” he said. said in a televised speech last week. And as king, he will have very little involvement in the running of the British government. (Queen Elizabeth II also refused, the vast majority of the time, to interfere in politics.)

But the new king’s environmental record could still sway the British public, even if he has no direct power to make policy. A to study published in the journal Nature Energy last year argued that people of high socioeconomic status, which Charles certainly is, are highly responsible for global warming and may have disproportionate power to combat the problem. They can do this through their investments, influencing politicians and other powerful people, or generally redefining what “Good Life” should look like. In Britain, the Conservative Party is more likely to approve of the monarchy and reject pro-environment policies. Charles’s example may influence some members to think more carefully about the environment, climate change, and the nature they hold dear.

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