His Royal Green­ness

While the Prince of Wales is rarely out of the press, it’s not usu­ally for his mul­ti­tude of so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal en­deav­ours, but rather his celebrity. El­e­ment takes a deeper look, and finds a man hugely knowl­edge­able about all things or­ganic and genui

Element - - The Cuase - By Andy Ken­wor­thy

His Royal High­ness the Prince of Wales is by no means your av­er­age eco-ac­tivist or icon of health con­scious­ness, but the heir to the British throne has spent decades work­ing on these is­sues throughout the world.

It is some­thing that ev­i­dently goes back a long way and lies deep in his psy­che. He de­scribes his feel­ings as a teenager, grow­ing up through the 1960s, when the rise of mod­ernism and rush for progress seemed to be push­ing all be­fore it:

“I felt deeply about what seemed to me a dan­ger­ously short­sighted ap­proach, whether in terms of the built or nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, agri­cul­ture, health­care or ed­u­ca­tion. In all cases we were los­ing some­thing of vi­tal im­por­tance.”

Next he re­calls be­ing in­vited to chair the Welsh com­mit­tee of Euro­pean Con­ser­va­tion Year 1970, work which in­spired him to take on many of its con­cerns un­der the ban­ner of his var­i­ous char­i­ta­ble or­gan­i­sa­tions. Be­cause of the spe­cial na­ture of Prince’s role as heir to the throne as well as his rel­a­tively re­served per­sonal style, you are un­likely to see him at a road protest or de­stroy­ing ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied crops. But a brief look at some of his re­cent speeches is enough to show the breadth and depth of his con­cern for sim­i­lar is­sues up to this day.

“Why do we tip the bal­ance of the Earth’s del­i­cate sys­tems with yet more de­struc­tion, even though we know in our heart of hearts that in do­ing so we will most likely risk bring­ing ev­ery­thing down around us?” he says. “If we wish to main­tain our civilizations then we must look af­ter the Earth and ac­tively main­tain its many in­tri­cate states of bal­ance so that it achieves the nec­es­sary, ac­tive state of har­mony which is the pre­req­ui­site for the health of ev­ery­thing in cre­ation. In other words, that which sus­tains us must also it­self be sus­tained.”

That these words are com­ing from the mouth of a man at the very heart of the es­tab­lish­ment, let alone some­body with the unique ac­cess to the power mon­gers of this world, makes them all the more po­tent. In­ter­est­ingly, speeches like this from the Prince have also ben­e­fit­ted from the ad­vice of Tony Ju­niper, the lead­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal cam­paigner, for­mer ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Friends of the Earth and now spe­cial ad­viser to the Prince of Wales Char­i­ties’ In­ter­na­tional Sus­tain­abil­ity Unit: a fact that adds fur­ther weight to the Prince’s eco-cre­den­tials.

Ju­niper cred­its the Prince with help­ing to in­spire a group of ma­jor coun­tries to pledge about six bil­lion US dol­lars worth of ad­di­tional fund­ing for rain­for­est pro­tec­tion.

“His Royal High­ness puts a gar­gan­tuan ef­fort be­hind stay­ing abreast of all that is go­ing on in the broad field of sus­tain­abil­ity,” he adds. “He reads a tremen­dous amount, spends a lot of time in con­ver­sa­tion with ex­perts and seeks out new ma­te­rial on cut­ting-

edge is­sues as he hears about them. As a re­sult he car­ries more than four decades of learn­ing, and this en­ables him to make a unique con­tri­bu­tion on these vi­tal is­sues, for ex­am­ple in how he is able to con­vince lead­ers of ma­jor com­pa­nies to act.”

But these ef­forts go way be­yond words or lofty lob­by­ing in mar­ble halls. In 1980 his com­mit­ment to the en­vi­ron­ment lit­er­ally found fer­tile ground in the shape of High­grove House near Tetbury in Glouces­ter­shire, which was pur­chased by the Duchy of Corn­wall as a res­i­dence for the Prince and his fam­ily. Six years later he be­gan work to con­vert farm­land on the prop­erty to or­ganic pro­duc­tion. The first pub­lic fruit of these en­deav­ours ap­peared in 1992: an oaten bis­cuit launched un­der the Duchy Orig­i­nals brand at Waitrose su­per­mar­kets in the UK, and cer­ti­fied as or­ganic by the Soil As­so­ci­a­tion. It was from the out­set en­vis­aged as a way to set up what the Prince refers to as a ‘vir­tu­ous cy­cle’.

“I wanted to demon­strate that it was pos­si­ble to pro­duce food of the high­est qual­ity, work­ing in har­mony with the en­vi­ron­ment and na­ture, us­ing the best in­gre­di­ents and adding value through ex­pert pro­duc­tion,” he said. “I also wanted to en­gen­der in­creas­ing funds for my char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tion, which re­ceives all the prof­its through which I can then sup­port an in­creas­ing num­ber of worth­while projects.”

The Duchy brand caught the wave of in­creased in­ter­est in or­gan­ics and con­trib­uted to the evolv­ing per­cep­tion of or­ganic food as a mark of pre­mium qual­ity, rather than just a fad for hip­pies and health food fa­nat­ics. To­day Duchy orig­i­nals cov­ers a wide range of prod­ucts, from beer to body care.

True to form, the Prince was also ahead of the game in in­still­ing key as­pects of en­vi­ron­men­tal cor­po­rate re­spon­si­bil­ity in his own op­er­a­tions head­quar­tered at Clarence House in Lon­don. Dur­ing the re­fur­bish­ment of the 19th cen­tury build­ing af­ter the Prince took up res­i­dence in 2003, sus­tain­able wood cer­ti­fiers the For­est Stew­ard­ship Coun­cil were en­gaged to help source ma­te­ri­als and tim­ber from re­spon­si­bly man­aged forests. In 2006 the Prince an­nounced plans to make travel ar­range­ments for his fam­ily and staff more eco-friendly, in­clud­ing re­port­ing on their over­all car­bon foot­print and cre­at­ing tar­gets to see it re­duced. He has also had many of his var­i­ous cars con­verted to run on locally pro­duced biodiesel.

At the same time, the Prince has ex­pressed his in­ter­est in well­be­ing through nu­mer­ous in­ter­ven­tions in the health sec­tor. Criticism of this has fo­cused on his sup­port for homeopa­thy and other ther­a­pies var­i­ously re­ferred to as ‘com­ple­men­tary’, ‘al­ter­na­tive’ or ‘nat­u­ral’. But Prince Charles him­self prefers to de­scribe his ap­proach as ‘whole-is­tic’: it takes in ev­ery­thing from hospi­tal food to home­grown herb gar­dens and is ex­plic­itly linked to his con­cerns for the health of our en­vi­ron­ment as a whole.

He has said: “Western medicine has tended to re­gard dis­ease as a par­cel of symp­toms to be dosed or chopped out, los­ing sight of the whole per­son be­hind the rash or lump and the var­i­ous emo­tional and en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors that may con­trib­ute to their phys­i­cal prob­lems.”

Criticism turned to con­tro­versy in the later years of the Prince’s Foun­da­tion for In­te­grated Health, first es­tab­lished in 1993 to pro­mote this ap­proach. In 2004 the Foun­da­tion re­ceived £900,000 (NZ$1.8 mil­lion) from the UK gov­ern­ment to “de­velop ro­bust sys­tems of reg­u­la­tion for the main com­ple­men­tary health­care pro­fes­sion­als”. But it then ran into its neme­sis, in the form of Pro­fes­sor Edzard Ernst, a spe­cial­ist in com­ple­men­tary medicine as well as one of the sec­tor’s most out­spo­ken and con­sis­tent de­bunkers. Ernst was asked to re­view a draft re­port for the Foun­da­tion com­mis­sioned by the Prince, but sub­se­quently with­drew from work­ing with it, de­scrib­ing it pub­licly as ‘out­ra­geous and deeply flawed’. He has since re­ferred to the Prince as a “snake oil sales­man”, and said that al­le­ga­tions of breach of con­fi­dence made by the Prince’s staff ul­ti­mately led to his early re­tire­ment.

Then, in 2010 the Foun­da­tions fi­nance di­rec­tor, ac­coun­tant Ge­orge Gray, was con­victed of theft to­talling £253,000 and sen­tenced to three years in prison af­ter a ‘black hole’ in the Foun­da­tions fi­nances was dis­cov­ered. The Foun­da­tion closed the same year, al­though sim­i­lar aims are now be­ing pur­sued by sev­eral of its di­rec­tors as part of a new or­gan­i­sa­tion called Col­lege of Medicine.

“That which sus­tains us must also it­self be sus­tained.”

In one of his most re­cent speeches on this sub­ject this year the Prince said: “I have been say­ing for what seems a very long time that un­til we de­velop truly in­te­grated sys­tems, not sim­ply treat­ing the symp­toms of dis­ease, but ac­tively cre­at­ing health, putting the pa­tient at the heart of the process by in­cor­po­rat­ing our core hu­man el­e­ments of mind, body and spirit, we shall al­ways strug­gle, in my view, with an over-em­pha­sis on mech­a­nis­tic, tech­no­log­i­cal ap­proaches. Please don’t mis­un­der­stand me, and I’ve said this over and over again and been sys­tem­at­i­cally mis­un­der­stood: the best of sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy con­stantly needs to be har­nessed and de­ployed to best ef­fect. But, I would sug­gest, not at the ex­pense of the hu­man el­e­ments which, af­ter all, pro­vide the whole ra­tio­nale for medicine and health­care go­ing back to our roots.”

There are those who ar­gue that the ex­is­tence of a Royal fam­ily in the UK in the 21st cen­tury is an anachro­nism, and that the Prince him­self is sim­ply ill at ease with the mod­ern age. But for a 64-yearold lead­ing mem­ber of a cen­turies-old tradition, Prince Charles has fre­quently dis­tin­guished him­self as a man ahead of his time. He has also been ac­cused of hypocrisy, be­cause the lav­ish­ness of his in­ter­na­tional life­style seems to con­trast so starkly with his ad­vo­cacy of a sim­pler life us­ing fewer re­sources. He re­mains an easy tar­get on that score, but it is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine him main­tain­ing the pos­i­tive in­ter­na­tional influence he has on these is­sues if he re­fused to meet peo­ple per­son­ally and sim­ply is­sues video calls from a small cottage in the Bre­con Bea­cons like some kind of eco­log­i­cally minded Osama bin Laden. The ar­gu­ment can also be flipped on its head: be­ing born into such a priv­i­leged and shel­tered po­si­tion it would have been all too easy for Prince Charles not to have cared about these is­sues at all, and not de­voted so much of his life and re­sources to them.

Ju­niper says: “I would say that he is one of the most ac­tive and suc­cess­ful sus­tain­abil­ity thinkers in the world to­day. Look­ing back on what he was say­ing years ago, there is no doubt that he is a real pi­o­neer, and that fact con­fers great cred­i­bil­ity on his ef­forts.”

The Royal phi­los­o­phy

The book: Har­mony, by HRH Prince of Wales with Tony Ju­niper and Ian Skelly, pub­lished in 2010, is the frank­est ac­count of the Prince’s phi­los­o­phy to date. It is an un­com­pro­mis­ing read. It be­gins, rather iron­i­cally con­sid­er­ing the Prince’s po­si­tion, with a call for rev­o­lu­tion. “‘Rev­o­lu­tion’ is a strong word and I use it de­lib­er­ately. The many en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial prob­lems that now loom large on our hori­zon can­not be solved by car­ry­ing on with the very ap­proach that has caused them. If we want to hand on to our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren a much more durable way of oper­at­ing in the world, then we have to em­bark on what I can only de­scribe as a ‘Sus­tain­abil­ity Rev­o­lu­tion’ – and with some ur­gency.” The cen­tral tenet of the book is that hu­man­ity must re-es­tab­lish its har­mony with na­ture. This, the Prince ar­gues, can be done through a deeper un­der­stand­ing of the pat­terns of na­ture and their lim­its, as well as by re-es­tab­lish­ing the kind of hu­mil­ity, rev­er­ence and spir­i­tual con­nec­tion that has been largely bull­dozed out of the way by the mod­ern ten­dency to think ex­clu­sively in ma­te­ri­al­is­tic terms. Tony Ju­niper com­ments: “The con­clu­sion that the Prince has reached is that the main chal­lenge we face in re­la­tion to sus­tain­abil­ity is not an ab­sence of tech­nol­ogy or dif­fer­ent poli­cies, but more what he calls a ‘cri­sis of per­cep­tion’. There are sev­eral faces to this, but one re­cur­rent theme ex­pressed by the Prince is how we have come to col­lec­tively per­ceive that we are out­side na­ture, and there­fore come to be­lieve that we can do with­out all that na­ture pro­vides for us.”

Photo: An­drew Law­son

Above: The Prince’s Gar­den, High­grove, has been trans­formed over his 30-year ten­ure.

Photo: Mark Mitchell.

The Prince of Wales gets a close-up look at a North­ern Royal Al­ba­tross and her chick dur­ing his last visit to New Zealand in 2005.

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