A speech by The Duke of Sussex at the Australian Geographic Society Awards


Tonight I have been so inspired by the awardees who are making such a remarkable difference in their communities

Thank you Chrissie, and good evening ladies and gentlemen.

As all of us in this room know, looking after our environment is a lifelong commitment. We are all part of a global family and we share the understanding and universal privilege of being able to inhabit this earth, with its natural wonders, glorious flora and fauna and biodiversity, from sky to sea, that is awe inspiring.

But I use the word privilege for a reason, because with privilege comes great responsibility.

To highlight this point, I wanted to share a few excerpts from a well-known conservationist. He starts by saying:

Conservation means being aware of the total environment we live in. It does not mean simply preserving every hedgerow, tree, field or insect in sight, but means thinking rationally and consciously just as much about the urban environment as about the countryside.

There is an unbalanced trend in our own time, when we have armoured ourselves with such an arsenal of machines and chemicals to do what we like to nature, and to reshape the world, that it has led us to see ourselves as somehow separate from, and superior to, nature.

He continues to say:

There was a time, when as human beings we thought the world belonged to us. Now we are beginning to realise that we actually belong to the world. We are responsible to it, and to each other.

And that whatever we do to nature, 

whether it is on the grandest scale or just in our own gardens, is ultimately something that we are doing to our own deepest selves. We have not been put on this planet to destroy it.

Ladies and gentleman, those words were shared in speeches dating back to 1970 and up until 2002, by my father, The Prince of Wales. And yet now, nearly 50 years later, those sentiments resonate just as much today, if not more, than ever before.

My father and others have been speaking about the environment for decades - not basing it on fallacy or new-age hypothesis, but rooted in science and facts, and the sobering awareness of our environmental vulnerability.  

And while those speeches would sometimes fall on deaf ears, he and others were unrelenting in their commitment to preserve the most valuable resource we have – our planet.

But let that be a cautionary tale.  We are all here tonight because we care deeply about using the world's resources wisely and safeguarding them for future generations. And, I am certain we are more aware of the need for this balance now, than ever before.

We must appreciate our planet and what it has to offer.  The world we live in cannot be replicated or tamed - it is a wild place where beauty takes time to form, in most cases, thousands of years, and without it, we are nothing.

Year after year, we hear increasing reports of human-wildlife conflict, how little time we have before it's too late to counter the impact of climate change, and how we can no longer sacrifice sustainability in development. The idea that these are the next generation's problems is not a view we can accept.

I know that here in Australia you have particular challenges such as coral bleaching on your magnificent Great Barrier Reef, recurring drought, and ever increasing bush fires. It is absolutely heartbreaking to see your natural treasures being changed forever. I was amazed to see that Australia supports up to 700,000 native species, a high proportion of which are found nowhere else on earth. 

So as Australians, the excellent work that you are doing to preserve your native biodiversity is really important,  not just for your own benefit, but for the whole planet.

But I am confident that positive and permanent change is on the horizon. Young people now innately understand far better than previous generations that we simply cannot continue to destroy our natural world, without facing major, irreversible consequences. 

And they understand that many of the solutions we need to tackle these issues can be found by working together and empowering communities to come up with long-lasting, sustainable solutions.

That's why tonight I have been so inspired by the awardees who are making such a remarkable difference in their communities, and I hope this platform will inspire others to do the same.

These are lessons we have all learnt and which we must urgently act upon. We cannot continue to pollute the oceans with plastics and other wastes. We cannot continue to breathe polluted air while cutting down our forests, or without reducing emissions. We cannot stand by and let our wildlife disappear from the earth and our fish from the seas.

In closing, I think we can agree tonight that there cannot be any more excuses.  Thanks to the tireless efforts of everyone in this room, and the environmentalists and conservationists of the past, we are ready to translate our awareness into action. 

It is going to take every single one of us to stop the clock on the destruction of our planet, and time is not on our side.

The standard we walk past, is the standard we accept.  It's time to take personal responsibility and realise what a privilege it is for us to live alongside nature.

Thank you for your dedication to our environment, our planet, our future, our Mother Nature.

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