LONDON — Prince William, second in line to the British throne, has urged people to focus on saving Earth rather than exploring space. He made the remarks as 90-year-old actor William Shatner became the oldest person to fly to the edge of space aboard a rocket operated by Jeff Bezos’s company, Blue Origin.
William, Duke of Cambridge, told the BBC that society needs “the world’s greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet,” and not focused on “trying to find the next place to go and live.”
His comments come as world leaders and scientists continue to grapple with the climate change emergency and as activists demand less talk and more concrete action.
While the prince did not directly name billionaires such as Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson, who are busy launching out-of-this-world trips as part of their own commercial space tourism programs, he made his stance clear: Making Earth a better place to live amid the growing threat of climate change should be prioritized to protect future generations.
“If we’re not careful, we’re robbing from our children’s future through what we do now,” he said as he explained that becoming a parent had prodded him to look at the world differently.
“I want the things that I’ve enjoyed — the outdoor life, nature, the environment — I want that to be there for my children,” he said. “And not just my children but everyone else’s children.”
The duke has three children with his wife, Catherine: Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.
William was interviewed ahead of this weekend’s Earthshot Prize ceremony in London, an initiative founded by the prince in an effort to acknowledge those working to find solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental issues.
Shatner’s flight, along with three other civilian astronauts, was the latest installment in a private space movement that has outpaced NASA.
The crew’s 10-minute flight came three months after Bezos flew to space on his company’s New Shepard rocket. (Amazon founder Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
“What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine,” Shatner told Bezos after the mission, while describing the beauty of the scenes he had witnessed.
During the interview, William credited his father, Prince Charles, with working for several decades to raise awareness about the dangers the planet is facing.
In an interview with the BBC earlier this week, Charles spoke out about his personal efforts to combat the climate crisis, which include pumping wine and cheese byproducts into his Aston Martin sports car to reduce his carbon footprint.
When asked if it took a lot of energy “to heat a palace,” the prince said he had installed solar panels at Clarence House, one of the many royal residencies.
New research published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change revealed that at least 85 percent of the world’s population has experienced weather events made worse by climate change.
Young people in their teens and 20s say they are becoming increasingly anxious about what their future holds — from floods to wildfires to extreme heat waves.
In a survey across 17 countries, the Pew Research Center found that more and more people regard climate change as a growing threat.