Brazil: Prince Charles in Rio makes a speech for trees

When I visited Sao Paolo back in 1991, I said in a speech to business leaders that: “Environmental awareness seems to be a plant which flourishes at times of economic well-being. As soon as recession appears, or other dramas capture the public attention, caring for the long-term viability of the world around us becomes a luxury to which we no longer give a high priority.”

Prince of Wales’s “Stop the Destruction of the rainforests” speech:

For we are, I fear, at a defining moment in the world’s history. We
are facing a series of challenges so immense that we can – perhaps –
be forgiven for feeling they are all too forbidding to confront.

The global recession is far worse than any seen for generations; the world’s demand for energy, which – we are told – will soon see prices for oil rocket again, creates political uncertainty in every continent; the demand for land to grow food intensifies at the same time as the world’s population rises – perhaps increasingly unsustainably – while the threat of catastrophic climate change calls into question humanity’s continued survival on the planet. To some, these problems appear to demand contradictory policy solutions. I would suggest, however, that this is not the case.

Doesn’t the global crisis in which we find ourselves tell us that sustainable development will be, indeed can only be, the primary driver of economic and industrial development in the future? Brazil has given the world some of its most inspirational ecological leaders, many of whom understood this basic truth. One was Chico Mendes who said: “At first I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees, then I thought I was fighting to save the Amazon rainforest.

Now I realize I am fighting for humanity.” Many voices have in recent years joined his to raise our collective consciousness of the need to act and, of course, every day the ever more alarming scientific evidence attests to the fact that we have very little time left if we want to sustain life on earth as we know it. As I know you well understand, the race in which we are all
engaged now is to restore harmony to the forces of Nature unleashed by climate change and so ensure our very ability to survive because,
ladies and gentlemen, any difficulties which the world faces today
will be as nothing compared to the full effects which global warming
will have on the world-wide economy.

It will result in vast movements of people escaping either flooding or droughts; in uncertain production of food and lack of water and, of course, increasing social instability and potential conflict. In other words, it will affect the well-being of every man, woman and child on our planet. Slowing down deforestation is a complex and urgent challenge.

It is most certainly not one that we can leave until later, or hope that it will go away on its own. Success will require cooperation and leadership and it is truly remarkable how Brazil has proved so willing in offering the international community both of these sometimes scarce commodities. Many of the essential choices we are going to have to make will be  hard and require great commitment. But it would all be so much easier,  and we could make a difference much more quickly, if such a genuine  partnership could be created.

Prince of Wales’s “Stop the Destruction of the rainforests” speech:

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