The royals’ ideology on environmentalism - GulfToday

The royals’ ideology on environmentalism

The royals’ ideology on environmentalism

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex

Rivkah Brown, The Independent

How to remain apolitical in an age of climate catastrophe? The royals are doing their level best. As Australia’s months-long bushfires claimed their 23rd victim, the country’s head of state, the Queen, sent her “thoughts and prayers” to her choking subjects, saying she was “deeply saddened” by the “devastating” news.

Ever the edgiest of the family, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex spiced up their milquetoast condolences with a condemnation of the “global environmental crisis” – of which the bushfires are a flagrant symptom – as “ecocide”. They stopped short, however, of naming its perpetrators.

“We are struck,” the royal couple observed in their Instagram post, “by the increasingly overlapping presence of these environmental disasters, including of course the destruction of the Amazon which continues.” Yes, but destruction by whom?

Cue the Cambridges’ own anodyne intervention into our impending apocalypse. On New Year’s Eve, William and Kate announced the start of their “decade of action to repair the earth”. Each year from 2021 to 2030 – by which point, of course, it will be too late to stop catastrophic climate change – the pair will award an indeterminate sum, provided by unnamed philanthropists, to the creators of a new eco-friendly invention.

The so-called Earthshot Prize sets its sights as high as the moon mission from which it takes its title. “The most prestigious environment prize in history,” the Earthshot reflects “a massive level of ambition” on behalf of the royals. The palace proclaimed it as “the biggest commitment the Duke has ever made”. Bigger, some might say, than the commitment he made to his wife.

Like their Sussex siblings, the Cambridges choose not to fixate misanthropically on the baddies of the climate emergency, instead philanthropically cheering on the good guys. As the earth teeters on the edge of a manmade abyss, the Duke called upon the public to “remember our unique power as human beings and our continual ability to lead, innovate and problem solve”.

In days as dark as these, it is hard to refuse his optimism. While Extinction Rebellion have proven grief a powerful spur to climate action, joy will be just as essential if we are to build a better world from the wreckage.

The royals’ ideology is hidden in plain sight. For just like the Apollo moon landings, Earthshot is an attempt to prove the superiority of capitalism (in this case, the profit motive) to provide technological solutions to mankind’s greatest problems.

“The most contentious dichotomy of all” within ideological responses to the climate crisis, insist the authors of A Planet to Win, is “growth or degrowth”. Earthshot sits firmly in the former camp, subscribing to the same logic that compels us to buy eco-fashion and offset our carbon, rather than buy fewer clothes and take fewer flights – that the solution to our ecocidal gluttony is more, more, more; that we can rescue the planet without radically altering our lifestyles, and certainly without sacrificing our luxuries. Needless to say, this isn’t a neutral logic – it’s the logic of business.

It is no surprise, then, that the prize the Earthshot most closely resembles is Virgin’s Earth Challenge, a $25bn (£19bn) fund created by Richard Branson in 2007 to develop innovative techniques for carbon removal. Nor is it surprising that the other recent royal foray into environmental activism, Travelyst, is a souped-up corporate social responsibility initiative to greenwash the travel sector.

Yet this method of letting capitalism clear up its own mess, tempting as it appears, is illusory. Again and again, argues Naomi Klein in This Changes Everything: Capitalism v The Climate, billionaires have “set out to harness the profit motive to solve the crisis, but again and again, the demands of building a successful empire trumped the climate imperative”.

From Branson to Bloomberg, Bill Clinton to Gates, her book is a catalogue of “billionaires who were going to invent a new form of enlightened capitalism but decided, on second thoughts, that the old one was just too profitable to surrender”.

Of course, it’s not coincidental that business and royalty are taking a similar, and similarly fruitless, tack. For as A Planet to Win projects, “it’s the rich who will bear the brunt of climate sacrifice”. The royals don’t favour environmental edge-tinkering out of a commitment to neutrality, but because the kinds of structural change that might actually save our planet would write them out of history.

So let’s harness the spirit of impossibility that took us to the moon to imagine a planet on which environmentalism isn’t top down and edges inward, but led by the people, and begun with a radical rethink of the political economy royalty crowns.

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