“I have been venturing into extremely dangerous territory by speaking about the future of food,” the Prince of Wales told an audience Wednesday at Georgetown University, evoking an image that could just as easily apply to his efforts to promote reducing dependence on fossil fuels. “I have the scars to prove it!”
But, for all the grief he gets, Charles clearly loves the subject, and he held forth for more than 40 minutes, delivering a dry, sobering and substantive message of impending worldwide crisis. And his remarks, once known for being radical, were delivered to a Washington audience on the day when Republicans and Democrats agreed that agri-business subsidies should be cut. Indeed, just five days after his son’s international blockbuster of a wedding to Kate Middleton, Charles seemed relieved to return to deriding agriculture’s “umbilical dependency on oil” and warning that humans “are pushing nature’s life-support system too far.”
“It certainly makes a change from making embarrassing speeches about my eldest son during wedding receptions,” he told the audience at the Future of Food conference, organized by Washington Post Live, a unit of this newspaper that holds conferences and events.
Charles’s keynote address was delivered on the second day of a three-day trip to Washington that included a stop Tuesday at Common Good City Farm, an urban farm and educational center in LeDroit Park, as well as a planned sit-down Wednesday afternoon with President Obama and a visit with Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, whose wife, Joanna Freda Hare, is the daughter of a British noble, the late John Hare, 1st Viscount Blakenham. As Charles arrived at Georgetown’s Healy Hall, a British reporter called out a question about what the prince would discuss with the president. “Ah!” Charles said cryptically, smiling and pointing a finger in the air before moving on.
Charles was greeted by dozens of students who braved cool weather and rain to catch a glimpse of him as he rolled up to the ancient hall in a seven-car motorcade. Charles chatted briefly with some of them before entering the hall, complimenting Dominick Fiorentino, a 19-year-old business major from New York, on the British flags he was waving. “I think he’s using his position to spread a message about sustainable food,” Kevin Rafferty, a 19-year-old business major from Newtown Square, Pa., said after exchanging a few words with the prince. “I respect that.”
In parts of the blogosphere, Charles’s reception has been much frostier. Phelim McAleer, an Irish journalist and filmmaker, was getting prominent play on right-leaning blogs and YouTube with his 2-minute-14-second film “Prince Charles – Hypocrite.” It starts with a clip of Charles saying, “We are making it cool to use less stuff.” That’s followed by a rollout of images — accompanied by a Bach minuet — of vast estates. (There’s no Airbus this time. Charles flew to Washington in a private jet owned by Texas billionaire Joe Allbritton.) “Sustainability is an awful concept,” McAleer said in an interview from his Los Angeles home. “It’s rich, white people telling mostly brown and black people that they need to stay poor.”