The next generation will ask why man put so much effort into the space race while leaving their own planet “vulnerable”, the Duke of Cambridge has suggested.
The Duke, writing a joint article with Michael Bloomberg to launch their environmental partnership, said equally “bold and decisive” action was now needed to protect Earth and its communities, just as humans had advanced “so far in space”.
Saving the planet, they say, will create new jobs in new industries, making economic sense as well as protecting public health.
Mr Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York and the United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Ambition and Solutions, has joined the Duke’s Earthshot Prize as a global advisor, mentoring winners of the £1m award to ensure their inventions are “scaled and replicated” worldwide.
“An hour of change and challenge is upon us again, but this time the question isn’t whether we can reach the moon. It’s whether we can save the Earth,” the Duke and Mr Bloomberg wrote, in an article published in USA Today.
“The science tells us that this is the decade to act – and that waiting is not an option.
“Without bold and decisive action, future generations will look back and ask: ‘How could they advance so far in space while leaving their own planet – and their own communities – so vulnerable?’”
Prince William at Alexandra Palace in north London, where the inaugural Earthshot Prize Awards will be held in October
Credit: Kensington Palace/PA
The Earthshot Prize was named after President John F Kennedy’s famous “moon shot” speech, which united millions of people in a “highly ambitious goal” and inspired a generation of scientists.
It follows global headlines about the most recent “space race”, which has seen Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson battle for commercial space flight.
Critics have called it a “pointless billionaire space race”, a “mere vanity project” and not a test of the world’s superpowers but “merely the egos of three billionaires”.
Bezos Earth Fund is one of the founding partners of the Earthshot Prize along with Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Mr Bloomberg was announced on Tuesday as an advisor to the Earthshot prize, which will award £50m split between 50 winners over the next decade.
He and Prince William said it is a “new call to action to the world”, supporting a “new generation of invention, innovation and entrepreneurship”.
“The race to put a man on the moon created new jobs, launched new companies and spurred technological innovations that have spread and improved lives all over the planet – long after the Moon Shot mission had been completed,” they said.
“The race to defeat climate change and protect the environment will be no different.
“The same steps that advance technology and cut carbon pollution also create jobs in new industries, while protecting public health and the natural resources we all depend on – changes that will benefit generations to come.”
A spokesman for Mr Bloomberg, who was awarded an honorary knighthood for his “prodigious entrepreneurial and philanthropic endeavours” in 2014, said the Earthshot partnership would see him “draw on his global network of government, business and philanthropic leaders and harness the resources and expertise within his company and philanthropy to help scale and replicate the prize winners’ solutions”.
Meanwhile, the Prince of Wales lamented the “terrible problem” of a future without bananas on Tuesday, as he visited Kew Gardens.
The Prince, who was joined by the President of Gabon, heard how work to support biodiversity by British scientists could futureproof food currently at serious risk from disease and climate change.
Botanists have already rediscovered a coffee species that can survive warmer temperatures, and are working on how to preserve bananas as the world currently knows them.
The Prince said: “It’s a terrible problem, isn’t it, that we’ve made ourselves so vulnerable over the last 60, 70 years, haven’t we, by reducing everything to just two to three species, or even two like the bananas, so we’re much more vulnerable to diseases.
“And this is why biodiversity, regeneration is so critical, isn’t it?”