HRH The Prince of Wales: ‘We have a very short window of opportunity, which must not be squandered, in which to seize something good from this crisis’

As the country confronts another lockdown, The Prince of Wales applauds the stoicism of rural people and urges us to work with Nature to forge a brighter and greener future.

The Prince of Wales’s birthday leader article has become something of a tradition in the pages of Country Life magazine, with the Prince always using the opportunity to highlight important issues for the countryside — and the nation as a whole.

Today, three days before he celebrates his 72nd birthday, the Prince takes a look at the tumultuous events of 2020, offering his perspective as we move forwards.

‘The country, and the world, have experienced changes we could never have foreseen,’ he writes.

‘Uncertainty has become a steady state; the previously unimaginable has become unexceptional; the extraordinary has become normal.

‘At such a time, it is tempting, and understandable, to focus on the losses, the failures and the challenges. However, if the life of the land teaches anything, it is the need to look at the long term.’

The Prince goes on to praise ‘the strength of our society: its resourcefulness, its compassion and its stoical determination’ in the face of the challenges we have faced since the Spring, and is certain that the nation can draw on those same qualities once more. If we have the strength to come through, he adds, we can also pool our efforts to tackle ‘the other deeply troubling problems our planet faces: global warming, climate change and the heartbreaking loss of biodiversity.’

While bird populations are dwindling across farmland and woodland, some rivers have only a fifth of the wild salmon who swam them in the 1980s and arable farms struggle with extreme weather, there is hope. New initiatives are helping to reverse declines and improve resilience, the Prince argues. ‘Innovation is not only for sterile laboratories, but is alive and well in the heart of the countryside,’ he writes, mentioning everything from wool insulation for houses to the National Garden Scheme raising money through online videos, where the gardens themselves had to shut.

Those new ideas blended with our desire ‘to reconnect with our natural world’ have created a moment of opportunity, the Prince concludes. But we must act quickly to grasp it:

‘Like the threatened red squirrels collecting their hazelnuts or jays their seeds and acorns, we must be wise and far-sighted,’ he writes.

‘We have a very short window of opportunity, which must not be squandered, in which to seize something good from this crisis and, as we rebuild, to put Nature, our planet and our children and grandchildren first.’

Read HRH The Prince of Wales’ full birthday leader in the November 11 issue of Country Life.