Joanna Williams Joanna Williams

Prince Harry should dial down his eco-alarmism

Prince Harry

‘What if every single one of us was a raindrop?’ 

I have no idea what goes into the Californian drinking water, but the Duke formerly known as Prince Harry seems to have been knocking it back.

We are fortunate indeed that, despite having fled State-side to secure greater privacy, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex continue to send us regular character-improving missives. This week sees Harry return to a favourite theme: climate change.

Speaking at an online event to mark the launch of WaterBear, a new subscription television platform for environmental and conservation documentaries, Harry pondered:

‘Every single raindrop that falls from the sky relieves the parched ground. What if every single one of us was a raindrop, and if every single one of us cared?’

The ground in my little corner of Kent is far from parched right now, but I guess the fact I am also not a raindrop indicates that Harry is not speaking literally. Indeed, I am sure he is quite genuine when he says: ‘Being in nature is the most healing part of life, I truly believe that’s one reason why it’s there.’ Perhaps it is understandable that Harry has come to see nature as existing for his personal healing. Unlike, say, the survivors of earthquakes, tornadoes and floods, who might hold a very different view of nature.

It is all too easy to mock the one-time heir to the throne turned Hollywood royalty, who comes complete with Netflix tie-in and, sadly, corona-curtailed frequent flying.

But what if instead of laughing, we take Harry seriously? His recently acquired penchant for woke suggests he has his finger (almost) on the pulse of elite opinion. Whether by design or by accident, Harry soaks up the zeitgeist before reflecting it back to us with all the sophistication of a Malawian elephant.

Take another statement Harry made at the WaterBear launch:

‘But the moment you become a father, everything really does change because then you start to realise, well, what is the point in bringing a new person into this world when they get to your age and it’s on fire?’

This rhetoric of the world being ‘on fire’ is the language used by Greta Thunberg, David Attenborough and Extinction Rebellion protesters. It comes from people who are feted, not mocked. It is the language heard in UN assemblies and the UK Parliament.

Laughing at Harry means we avoid having to take him seriously and subjecting his words to serious criticism. And we need to question the merit of the ‘world on fire’ message. Sure, it makes for an evocative, powerful and disturbing image. But it is also terrifying and fatalistic. As Harry suggests, it leads inevitably to the question, ‘what is the point in bringing a new person into this world?’ Indeed, what is the point of doing anything if our fate is so definitely sealed?

And for all Harry talks about his future progeny, many climate activists have brought the deadline forward. Back in 2018, the UN warned that we have just 12 years to limit a climate change catastrophe. So, only ten more to go. If the world is truly on fire, we need to do far more than imagining ourselves to be raindrops.

The ‘end-is-nigh’ alarmism beloved by campaigners does far worse than seed passivity. It can lead to eco-anxiety, a phenomenon described by Psychology Today as a ‘psychological disorder afflicting an increasing number of individuals who worry about the environmental crisis’. In a survey carried out for the BBC, almost three in five (58 per cent) children said they were concerned about the impact climate change will have on their lives. Nearly one in five claimed to have had a bad dream about the climate crisis, while 17 per cent said their concerns affected their capacity to sleep and eat normally. Poor Greta may find solace for her own struggles through activism, but this is disastrous for other people’s children.

Harry reminds us that when it comes to children, ‘We can’t steal their future, that’s not the job we’re here for.’ Instead, he urges us to think about how we can ‘have our desire fulfilled without taking from our children and generations to come?’ Sadly, this stoking of generational grievances does little other than cultivate a sense of victimhood in young people. Young people have not had their futures stolen. Our planet is not literally on fire. Climate change and our response to it must, of course, be taken seriously, but despite the ever-shifting deadlines of activists, our future is not already mapped-out.

If Harry wants to make a difference, his next sermon should dial down the psychedelia and fear-mongering. We already have more than enough celebrities skilled in regurgitating the woke zeitgeist.