The royal family should rehabilitate their estates and lead the recovery of the natural world in Britain, activists say
More than 100 of Britain’s best-known nature experts, writers, TV presenters and academics call on the royal family to show leadership on the climate and biodiversity crisis by rewilding vast amounts of lands they control.
TV environmentalists Kate Humble and Chris Packham, TV professor Alice Roberts, Chief Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams and actor Sir Mark Rylance are among more than 100 celebrities, scientists and public figures who signed a open letter claiming that the UK’s status as one of the most nature-impoverished countries in the world undermines claims of environmental leadership, and that the Royal Family is “uniquely positioned” to help make major improvements.
The letter, organized by the Wild Card campaign group, said the royal family has a “unique and historic opportunity to dramatically tackle the degraded state of nature on these islands.”
Wild Card noted that the royal family directly controls 250,000 acres of land through their private estates and the two royal duchies, and owns an additional 336,000 acres of land through the crown estates; an area 6 times the size of the Isle of Wight.
Among these, large areas are intensively managed grouse barrens, considered by scientists to be ecological disaster areas.
The letter read: ‘Taken together, the Royal Estates – the Crown Estate, the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall, and the lands held privately by the Sovereign – are larger than those of any other landowner in the UK .
HRH the Prince of Wales has spoken of a ‘duty to the planet which is absolute’ and HRH the Duke of Cambridge has said it is our ‘responsibility’ to avoid ‘crucial tipping points’, while Sir David Attenborough called on us to “rewild the earth”.
“The Royal Family, as figures of moral stewardship and as ambassadors of our nation, is uniquely positioned to now lead the charge in the great task of our time: planetary repair.”
The letter comes as the climate and ecological crisis is expected to be high on the agenda at the G7 summit in Cornwall this weekend, and ahead of the UN’s Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.
Growing apprehension of the impact humans have on the environment has made this problem a pressing global concern.
With all eyes on the UK, which hosts key events this year, the country’s poor historic record comes under close scrutiny.
According to State of Nature Report, the United Kingdom ranks among the most “natural” countries in the world.
The UK is ranked 189th out of 218 countries assessed for ‘integrity of biodiversity’.
More than 95% of the country’s wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s – an area of over 4 million football fields, while a quarter of all British mammals and almost half of birds are now threatened with extinction.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “A decision by the Sovereign and the rest of the Royal Family to restore ancient forests and support the return of lost wildlife to their lands could literally change the course of our country’s natural history and play a huge role. help counter the alarming loss of biodiversity and the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
The letter also acknowledges the efforts the Royal Family have already made to address aspects of the climate and biodiversity crisis, and praises “inspiring projects already undertaken on the Royal Lands, notably in the Duchy of Cornwall estates. “.
On the same day the letter was published, in a speech at the 2021 Sustainable Growth Conference, hosted by the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, Prince Charles warned that the human destruction of environmental diversity leaves the world ” dangerously exposed “to future pandemics, and said” time is running out quickly “to act.
The prince said during the online conference on Tuesday: “I don’t need to stress the planetary emergency we are facing, nor the desperately urgent need to act, but if I may say so, I believes we now find ourselves facing a unique opportunity to catalyze change towards a sustainable nature-based path here in Cornwall.
Emma Smart, environmentalist and co-founder of Wild Card, who coordinated the open letter, said: “It’s time for the Royal Family to act now.”
“We congratulate Prince Charles for taking a stand for global environmental causes and Prince William for founding the Earthshot Prize to fund climate solutions over the next decade. However, we also need to focus on the environmental threat closer to home – the incredibly low biodiversity in large swathes of the UK landscape. “
Professor Alice Roberts added: “So many people have turned to nature over the past year – it is extremely important for our health and well-being to be able to get out into wild, natural places. But we desperately need to reverse decades of habitat loss, loss of biodiversity, and assaults on the natural environment.
“We all need nature, and right now, nature needs us. The royal family could really lead the way.