December 3, 2020 - 7:00am

In an interview for the WaterBear network, the Prince Harry said that “being in nature is the most healing part of life. I truly believe that’s one reason why it’s there.” That’s the closest thing I’ve heard to a religious statement from any of the young royals — though which religion I’m not entirely sure. Just about all of them, I guess.

Not the worship of Mammon, though. For a certain shade of Right-wing opinion, the only green thing to be revered is money. Which is why anyone expressing concern for the environment is to be ridiculed.

For instance, just look at the way that Harry’s interview was written up in yesterday’s Telegraph: “The Duke of Sussex suggested that the coronavirus pandemic was a rebuke from mother nature as he urged everyone to “be a raindrop” and repair the Earth.”

The first part of that sentence makes him sound like a fire-and-brimstone eco-prophet, and the second like a spaced-out hippy. Read further down the article and you get the direct quotes, which sound rather less deranged.

The raindrop stuff is just a metaphorical description of the power of collective action — everyone doing their little bit. As for the supposed “rebuke from mother nature”, this is what the prince actually said:

“Somebody said to me at the beginning of the pandemic, it’s almost as though mother nature has sent us to our rooms for bad behaviour to really take a moment and think about what we’ve done. It’s certainly reminded me about how interconnected we all are, not just as people but through  nature. We take so much from her and we rarely give a lot back.”
- Prince Harry

Note the words — “it’s almost as if” — i.e. this is another metaphor. Furthermore, it’s making a serious and valid point. In all likelihood, human interference did cause this pandemic. Whether the insane trade in wildlife was to blame or a laboratory experiment gone wrong, the fact is that our carelessness has consequences. Then there’s our global transport networks — if we insist on being able to travel whenever and wherever we want, then we’ve got to assume that novel pathogens will be as mobile as we are. So, yes, we really do need to take a moment and think about what we’ve done — and what we may yet do as a result of factory farming, genetic modification and all the other ways in which we’re cooking up the next disaster.

I can’t say I’m thrilled about Harry and Meghan’s forays into wokery, but global systemic risk is an issue on which they, and many others, should be speaking out. Of course, they could lead by example — embracing simpler, less jet-set lifestyles — but, however they make the point, I hope it’s heard loud-and-clear.

Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.