The Prince of Wales has told Sky News that he knows he was “lucky” and “got away with it quite lightly” when he caught coronavirus, but it’s made him even more determined to “push and shout and prod” to make sure nature is at the centre of the post-COVID recovery.
In an exclusive interview via video call from Scotland, Prince Charles said he sympathised with the “bewilderment and anxiety” felt by many in the UK as a result of the COVID-19 crisis but also shared his fears that we could see more global pandemics if we don’t tackle climate change and the loss of biodiversity.
Speaking openly about his experience of having the virus, he admitted it had further motivated him to push on with his environmental agenda.
The prince said: “It makes me even more determined to push and shout and prod if you see what I mean. Whatever I can do behind the scenes sometimes.
“I suppose it did partly, I mean I was lucky in my case and got away with it quite lightly. But I’ve had it, and I can so understand what other people have gone through.
“And I feel particularly for those for instance, who have lost their loved ones and have been unable to be with them at the time. That to me is the most ghastly thing.
“But in order to prevent this happening to so many more people, this is why I’m so determined to find a way out of this. In order to bring the world and all of us back to the centre, back to understanding what we have to do in relationship to the natural world.”
The prince spoke to Sky News as part of the After The Pandemic: Our New World series being aired this week.
Charles dialled in from Birkhall, his home in Scotland, where he’s been living with the Duchess of Cornwall since the lockdown started. It was announced in mid-March that he had contracted the virus.
Speaking of his genuine concern that we could see further pandemics if we don’t act now, he said: “The more we erode the natural world, the more we destroy what’s called biodiversity which is the immense diversity of life, plant life, tree life, everything else, marine life, the more we expose ourselves to this kind of danger.
“We’ve had these other disasters with SARS and Ebola and goodness knows what else, all of these things are related to the loss of biodiversity, they’re called zoonotic diseases where you end up with these diseases being transferred from animals to humans if you over erode the natural world.”
He added: “It’s one of the reasons that I tried to get the point across that we should have been treating the planet as if it was a patient long ago.
“So no self-respecting doctor would ever have let the situation, if the planet is a patient, reach this stage before making an intervention.
“Hence the precautionary principle which seems to me to be absolutely essential and also learning from all these indigenous people around the world who understand these issues all too well and also understand that certain things are sacred if you see what I mean, but we’ve removed all that sense totally from our scheme of things and I think we’re slightly paying the price as a result.”
The prince believes that a “green recovery” should be at the centre of global efforts to rebuild economies and could be integral for getting people back to work in the post pandemic world.
In January he launched the Sustainable Markets Council at the World Economic Forum in Davos, an initiative aimed at showing that economic growth and protecting the environment can go hand in hand.
This week he launched a new phase of the initiative under the banner of The Great Reset.
He told Sky News he’s been talking to world leaders during lockdown about the challenges they face and the benefits of putting sustainability at the centre of any recovery.
“I haven’t exactly been wasting my time during this lockdown if you know what I mean. I’ve been in connection with a lot of people during this pandemic, so I have been able to do a lot, using this technology,” the prince added.
“I have been in communication with a lot of people around the world on the issues. For instance, I’ve been speaking to leaders in the Caribbean which is chiefly commonwealth countries and they are facing immense challenges.
“I was talking to the prime minister of St Lucia recently because he wanted to talk about the horrors facing the islands where the tourism sector has disintegrated completely, they’re under the most appalling economic pressure they’ve also got the risks and dangers of every year of hurricanes.”
But he expressed some frustration that it has taken a global pandemic to make some wake up to the threats.
He added: “It’s only catastrophes which concentrate the mind, which means, that for once, there might be some real impetus to tackle all these things that have been pushed to one side because everyone said, ‘oh it’s irrelevant’.
“For instance, you could never get the G20 to concentrate very much on agriculture, forestry or fishery because it wasn’t considered very sexy. But these are crucial things.”
Talking about the impact that the pandemic has had on people in the UK, Prince Charles described the “remarkable” way that people had supported each other in the face of immense human tragedy.
He said: “I can’t tell you how much I sympathise with the way that everyone has had to endure this unbelievably testing and challenging time.
“I know that so many people have had the agony of losing their loved ones and the bewilderment and anxiety that surrounds everything and so it is the most awful aspect of a pandemic like this, and yet we’ve seen at the same time people being quite remarkable and wonderful people in the national health service and all the other key workers who kept everything going.
“That is the remarkable thing about all this it always produces the best of everybody in so many ways, and that I think is something which is so special about the reaction. But at the same time we have to make sure we try to do better in the future.”
This week, Dermot Murnaghan is hosting After the Pandemic: Our New World – a series of special live programmes about what our world will be like once the pandemic is over.
We are being joined by some of the biggest names from the worlds of culture, politics, economics, science and technology.
You can watch the exclusive interview with the Prince Charles in full at 8pm on Thursday.