The fascinating backstory of King Charles III and his (sometimes controversial) environmental crusade

Most people know that now King Charles III really care about the environment. It has been repeated many times in the months since Queen Elizabeth II’s death, especially by the people who admire him. What is perhaps less known to the general public is exactly how respected he is among environmental advocates.

This year, Charles reportedly canceled plans to attend COP27 in Egypt last week due to advice from Liz Trusshis short-lived administration, maintained by the new prime minister, hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace for over 200 politicians and activists who were on their way to Egypt. For Charles, trips to UN climate conferences are about more than keeping up appearances – he actually participates. At COP21 in Paris in 2015, where a landmark treaty was to be negotiated, Charles used his opening remarks to remind attendees to think about the world they were leaving their grandchildren. During his last trip to COP26 in Glasgow, Charles gave four separate speeches and presented a video message from his mother.

One obvious reason for his passion for the environment is that he was simply in the right place at the right time. Historians have cited 1970 as the year when threats to the environment broke into the mainstream, and when the 22-year-old graduated from college with a degree in anthropology and archeology and planned his career, the concerns came naturally. For a handful of youngsters, caring for the environment became a countercultural lifestyle, and although Charles was never a staunch member of the back-to-the-land movement, some of his beliefs and practices – from his organic farm in Highgrove to his. concerns about genetically modified organisms—were not too far off.

Still, Charles remained unusually committed to environmental issues, even after the 1970s drew to a close, perhaps because it spoke to something deeper in him. With talks on the environment spanning five decades, he has expressed his early interest in the environment, talking about beauty, consciousness, fusion and imagination. He has also been extremely smart when it comes to incorporating new information and following the buzzwords of the movement. But including his story in the movement also helps reveal some of the pitfalls that have made climate action much harder to achieve.

The future king made his first foray into environmental issues long before global warming was even on the agenda. On a dreary day in February 1970, Charles followed his father, Prince Philip, into a room in Strasbourg’s town hall for a conservation conference. Dressed in a dark suit and looking younger than 22, Charles sat in the audience as his father gave a speech about resource depletion, endangered wildlife and the need for more land to be protected. These were the issues on which Philip spent most of his life, and they were quite normal concerns for European royalty at the time. Charles and Philip were joined by four other European princes at the conference, which brought together government representatives and activists to launch the European Year of Conservation.

In 1970, Charles had already been involved in the organization of the European Year of Nature Conservation for almost two years. Many of Charles’ decisions about education and employment were orchestrated by Queen Elizabeth II and her advisers, and his early forays into the world of environmentalism were prompted by their desire for him to form closer links in Wales. In 1968, Charles began to prepare for his responsibilities as heir by spending more time in the nation. First, he chaired the committee tasked with organizing the public’s participation in the upcoming European Conservation Year, the first time he held the role of chairperson. The following year he returned to take a summer course in Welsh before embarking on a grand assignment at Caernarfon Castle in July 1969.

Charles’s 1970 trip to France was part of a larger plan to launch him into his career in public life. His university studies would finish in the spring, so the year after he started work, he committed himself to a hectic travel schedule to serve as a royal apprentice before starting his military training at the Royal Navy College, Dartmouth. After leaving the conference in Strasbourg, Charles went to Paris to attend the state funeral of French leader Charles de Gaulle.

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