Prince William and Kate are in Boston for their third and final day today for the Earthshot Prize awards. Part of their itinerary yesterday included a walk with Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and Reverend Mariama White-Hammond to observe rising sea levels and the impact that’s having on Boston’s shoreline.
Will and Kate first met Reverend White-Hammond on Wednesday, the day before, upon their arrival when she made a speech at Boston City Hall that included the following remark:
"On this day, I invite us all to consider the legacy of colonialism and racism."
This happened just as Ngozi Fulani’s callout of Lady Susan Hussey’s racism at Buckingham was blowing up online and making international headlines. So it’s understandable that people were connecting the Reverend’s comments with two senior members of the British royal family, aka the OG colonisers. But focusing on that one incident shouldn’t take away from the bigger picture.
First of all, Reverend White-Hammond’s speech would obviously have been prepared well before Lady Susan Hussey’s racism was made public. The Reverend was there in her capacity as Boston’s Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space. The Earthshot Prize (otherwise known as Prince William’s “Super Bowl”, LOL) is all about environmental awareness and finding solutions to the climate crisis. And the Reverend was referencing “the legacy of colonialism and racism” in connection to climate change. This is what she said after that initial statement:
"On this day, I invite us all to consider the legacy of colonialism and racism. The ways it has impacted people across the world and its connection, its deep connection to the degradation of land and our planet that we are all seeking to reverse. The stories lost, the species made extinct, but also the persistence of people in the face of oppression and the fundamental dignity of all of our relations."
Colonialism and racism have hurt people, people like Ngozi Fulani. But they have also hurt the planet – which is ALL the people. And this is where it gets way bigger and trickier for Prince William, Kate, and the British royal family. Because “climate change is a racial justice issue”. By now we should all be familiar with the fact that the climate crisis has disproportionately affected those in racialised communities. And most climate experts now acknowledge that the “climate emergency is a legacy of colonialism”. According to a report released this year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “leading climate scientists acknowledged that colonialism is a historic and ongoing driver of the climate crisis”..
Colonialism and colonisers were and are big contributors to the climate crisis. You cannot separate colonialism and colonisers from the British royal family. The current British royal family is directly descended from the OG British royal colonisers. Much of the British monarchy’s wealth and influence is a direct result of colonisation. The British monarchy benefitted from colonisation. Their enslavement and oppression of hundreds of thousands of people, if not more, created a workforce that cultivated land and created a trade infrastructure that built their empire. And now, “the pervasive and persistent institutions of colonialism make it far more challenging to address the climate crisis and implement solutions, especially in a just and equitable way”.
The monarchy IS an institution of colonialism! It is one of the marquee institutions of colonialism! Prince William and Kate are members of this institution of colonialism that “is a historic and ongoing driver of the climate crisis”. Not just members but SENIOR members. So if climate change and the environment are really one of their priorities, um, isn’t this a conflict of interest?
It doesn’t have to be. William and Kate’s climate activism may be well-intentioned. That said, it may also be selective. Remember last year, what he said about conservation in Africa and the ensuing reaction?
â€œThere are too many Africansâ€ is quite the position. https://t.co/ZyjtaQawlE— Franklin Leonard (@franklinleonard) November 24, 2021
He brought some ignorant energy to the wildlife preservation issue but has remained largely unspecific when it comes to the connection between colonialism (aka his family legacy) and climate change. As we all know, the monarchy’s position on colonialism has been basic AF. “Racism is bad” is pretty much the only thing they’ve said and repeated about it and they’ve certainly gone nowhere near any productive conversations about the relationship between colonialism and so many of the world’s ills, including the climate crisis.
And yet, he’s out here with Earthshot aiming to find “50 solutions to the world’s gravest environmental problems by 2030”. This is a beautiful goal, it is the goal we all should be working towards. But can solutions be found without, at the very least, considering the causes? Without truly understanding the contributions to the problem?
Reverend Mariama White-Hammond invites us all “to consider the legacy of colonialism and racism [and]… its deep connection to the degradation of land and our planet”. How much has William and the royal family considered it? And if they have, is he ever going to talk about it as part of his efforts to save the planet?