One of the many noted aspects of the Duke of Edinburgh’s life to be raised in the coverage following his recent death was his passion for the environment. As global President of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) from 1981 to 1996, and as the UK’s WWF president since its inception, he championed the causes of the natural world. And this, as has been so widely commented on, was ‘well before it was fashionable to do so.’
To say that he cared about the environment is to do him a disservice. Never mind the divine right of kings, Prince Philip saw it as his God-given duty to protect the created world into which he had been so blessed to be born. Environmentalism, for that is what it was, ran deep in his veins. Far from being an unusual string to his pristinely royal, traditionalist, conservative bow, his environmentalist insticts went hand in hand with his prince-of-men perspective on the world.
To understand his environmentalism, and how it differed from the so-called environmentalism of the likes of Extinction Rebellion, the Green Party, and Greta Thunburg, you need only listen to what he had to say.
‘We depend on being part of the web of life,’ he says in one much shown clip. ‘We depend on every other living thing on this planet, just as much as they depend on us.’
His environmentalism was one founded on a belief in the interconnectedness of the natural world, animals with human beings, and human beings with animals. Regrettably, the eco debate today is dominated by mad prophets who suggeset that it is simply the presence of humans on this planet which leads to climate change and ecological
disaster. The logical endpoint of such a view is that the only ‘solution’ involves the end of the human race. Sinister language, but also unfeasible and deranged.
Prince Philip saw that it is not only possible for human beings to exist alongside the natural world in a way which benefits both, but that such a relationship, between human and animal, is indeed fundamental for both to flourish and thrive.
Where ‘bunny-huggers’ (as he called them) go further astray is that they assume the solutions have to be general and global, when really they can only be specific and local. His was a conservationist’s environmentalism: at core, conservative.
This is why he supported fox hunting. This hobby of his is only called a ‘contradiction’ by the eco-warrior types he left the WWF over. Those people, who claim to support the protection of the natural environment, betray the politicalisation of their cause when they criticise the practice, amongst other things, of fox hunting.
It isn’t difficult to make the ecological case for fox hunting, or any form of hunting fo that matter. Over the last 50 years the number of foxes killed by any means (which, after the 2004 fox hunting ban will largely be shooting or poisoning) has increased by 300%. Far from being a protecion to foxes, the ban on hunting has seen them wiped out in large parts of the country, especially in rural parts, where farmers, instead of protecting a healthy population of foxes for the local hunt, now shoot them as they please. Instead of being seen as an integral part of ‘the web of life’, because of the fox hunting ban, they became a pest, to be dealt with and exterminated.
Such bans by those who come in the name of environmental protection do far more harm than good. It is landowners, people like Prince Philip; those who feel a natural and instinctive bond to the land they tend, passed down from generation to generation, who are best placed to protect the land that has been entrusted to them.
As soon as local people who love the land they care for are dictated how to look after it by top-down government decrees, the whole system, the delicate balance of predator and prey, flora and fauna, man and beast, is tipped into the red. Far from being an answer to our ecological woes, government regulation, whether national or international, appears to do the very opposite, and exacerbate existing problems. As the German poet Friedrich Hölderlin observed:
What has always made the state a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven.
Prince Philip knew this, and put his own conservationist brand of environmentalism into practice. And it worked.