Prince William’s speech at the Platinum Party at the Palace was right to talk of hope in tackling our environmental and ecological crisis. His call to action, that “together, if we harness the very best of humankind, and restore our planet, we will protect it for our children, for our grandchildren and for future generations to come” should act as a rallying call to governments, businesses, and individuals around the world to show determination and imagination in creating a better future for life on Earth.
I say imagination quite intentionally. Tackling these issues – the biggest humankind has ever faced – requires us to think beyond the jargon of carbon emissions. It requires us to think more broadly. After all, a low-carbon world without rich biodiversity – where waste is still pumped into our waterways and buried in landfill, where unique habitats and delicate ecosystems are destroyed – is not a world in which any of us can thrive or perhaps even survive.
The good news is there are ever more creative solutions to these problems. As Mary Helgar said, “The thing about climate is that you can either be overwhelmed by the complexity of the problem or fall in love with the creativity of the solutions,” and we all ought to be on the side of creativity. As Prince William’s Earthshot Prize attests, the answers to these questions can excite and inspire.
Surely this is the opportunity for governments and businesses: to seek out and embrace the solutions that inspire. To tell people a story. If we are to repair our planet, we need to speak to people’s hearts as well as their minds. If we want them to spend their time and money making a difference, to make the protection and restoration of our planet part of their lifestyles, we need to start talking about more than carbon emissions; and we need to shift the narrative from one of fear to one of hope.
We have seen throughout history that hope is a much more powerful emotion than fear. We all want to fight for something, to see the light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long or dark that tunnel may seem.
So instead of talking about the imminent destruction of our planet, let’s talk about vast seagrass meadows that sequester carbon up to 35 times faster than trees, while also providing rich habitats for some of our most important marine life. Let’s talk about how healthy oceans, free from plastics and pollution, teem with life and create balanced ecosystems that can cool our Earth.
While it is important to talk about the consequences of mining coal, let’s also talk about how, in Australia, a new project has worked out how to effectively reverse the process by coppicing vast eucalyptus plantations and burying the biomass deep underground, where the carbon is stored for thousands or tens of thousands of years.
Closer to home, we are beginning to understand that rewilding our open spaces can bring huge and rapid benefits to our native plant and animal life. In the South West of England, the Save Me Trust, established by Queen guitarist Brian May and conservationist Anne Brummer, is taking former logging land and bringing it back to its naturally biodiverse state.
These stories and more can be found around the world: technology to plant 100 million trees using drones that fire specially designed seed pods from the sky; cookers that are powered by the sun, to replace harmful smoke-belching wood fires in refugee communities; tech innovators that recycle old mobile phones and avoid polluting e-waste from entering landfill; local communities coming together to protect vital turtle-hatching grounds and benefiting from turtle tourism instead of turtle hunting.
Such projects, harnessing the power of our natural wilderness, oceans, and technology, are brought together in our platform, Pinwheel; where businesses and events, such as The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Pageant, support them by engaging their audiences.
These are the stories that will restore our planet. Every day, creative people around the world, little by little, are protecting and repairing. Let’s seek them out, talk about them, celebrate them, support them to do more, to go faster, to have more impact.
If we look for beauty and meaning in planet restoration, if we tell these stories, if we engage ourselves and others in the magic and wonder of this planet and the creativity of humanity in repairing it, then we have a chance to ensure the best years of planet Earth are ahead. As Prince William says, “There is always room for hope.”
Gavin Sheppard is a founder and the chief executive of the sustainability platform Pinwheel.
This article first appeared in the Express on Saturday 11 June 2022.