Prince Charles doing the Samba in Rio

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall are currently on a ten day environmental crusade in South America. So far the Prince has danced the Samba in Rio de Janeiro, visited indigenous trips in the Amazon, been fumigated in Ecuador and celebrated 200 years of Darwinism with a trip to the Galapagos Islands. The aims of the visit are to highlight climate change and promote sustainable development. Charles sees himself as a green crusader and has indeed been campaigning for environmental issues for more than two decades. This latest campaign or ‘holiday’ has been met with some scathing criticism from some parties


The Prince confronted some complex environmental issues, namely the worrying plight of the rainforest, whilst in Brazil. Two ongoing projects are worth a mention. In 2007 he set up the Prince’s Rainforest Project which funds projects promoting the sustainable use of the rainforest. Secondly the Forest People’s Alliance campaigns against urban development and logging in the rainforest. One of the project founders Chico Mendes, a leading green activist and voice of the local people, was assassinated more than two decades ago. This week Charles was declared as a ‘Friend of the Forest’ by the Amazonas state as he visited indigenous tribes of Manaus, in the heart of the rainforest, and was thanked for supporting these groups in the fight against de-forestation. This was followed by a so called landmark speech in Rio de Janeiro a few days later warning the world that it has less than 100 months to act to avoid catastrophic climate change. He quoted Chico Mendes in a speech aimed to highlight the serious reality of global warming: “At first I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees. Then I thought I was fighting to save the Amazon Rainforest. Now I realise I am fighting for humanity”.


This all comes after The Copenhagen Climate Congress issued a strongly worded communiqué last week warning that the impacts of climate change will far exceed the worst fears expressed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change in 2007. Research presented at the congress ‘sounded the death knell for the Amazon rainforest’ suggesting it will soon disappear completely.


It is clear that the Prince is serious in his fight to save the Amazon but to me it seems that there’s a lot of rhetoric and a lack of any serious action. The timescale of 100 months appears to be plucked out of no where and shows a lack of understanding of the complex science behind climate change. One blog, entitled ‘Prince Charles only hears the science he wants to hear’, goes further in its criticism of his motives and is worth a look. There’s no doubt that the Amazon is under threat, indigenous tribes are dying out and logging causes wide scale deforestation everyday. In addition the increasing number of adventure tourists to the region exacerbates this environmental degradation. Charles and Camilla’s trip has even been labelled as an adventure holiday that is detrimental to the environment. The recurrent theme of this trip is that a balance needs to be struck between economic needs and the preservation of the balance of nature. The projects mentioned above are a starting point and this latest royal visit raises the profile of the escalating problems in the Amazon; however until the world decides what is more important, economics or nature, then climate change and the issues surrounding sustainable development will continue to be ignored in the third world and exacerbated by the first world. More action and less rhetoric is required, but at least Charles is enjoying himself and Camilla is getting a good suntan.