Earthshot: The Prize to Save The Planet


Antarctic ice is melting at record levels. This September was the hottest ever, or at least since human beings began keeping track of such things. Oceans are becoming warmer and more acidic. Massive wildfires are raging across parched landscapes across the world. Tropical storms are becoming more frequent and destructive. The signs of climate change are everywhere and show no signs of retreat. 


That’s the bad news, but there is some good, a new initiative launched by the United Kingdom’s Prince William through his and his wife’s philanthropic organization, The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. On the eve of 2020, the Prince announced the Earthshot Prize, an exceedingly ambitious and wonderfully audacious contest of sorts that would serve to catapult innovations in both ideas and technology to save the planet from (and for) ourselves. The prize was officially launched just last month to much fanfare.


Named with an homage to U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s “moonshot” challenge that took humanity to the moon (and back), the Earthshot Prize will award five £1 million to five winners from 2021 to 2030, funding at least 50 solutions to the greatest environmental challenges of our time.


Self-described as “the most prestigious global environmental prize in history,” the Prize is meant not just to work in its own silo but rather to create a new paradigm of optimism in addressing climate change and spur collective action in broader and more collaborative ways. Much like Kennedy’s “moonshot” generated significant benefits to humanity well beyond reaching the moon, the Earthshot Prize is envisioned as creating a similar blossoming of progress and innovation.


No legitimate environmental project with this much optimism could emerge from Great Britain without the most well-known U.K. conservationist, Sir David Attenborough, also on board. And so, Sir David is working in close partnership with Prince William on the effort.



“The Earth is at a tipping point, and we face a stark choice: either we continue as we are and irreparably damage our planet or we remember our unique power as human beings and our continual ability to lead, innovate and problem-solve,” the Prince commented about the prize. “People can achieve great things. The next ten years present us with one of our greatest tests – a decade of action to repair the Earth,” Prince William continued.


The launch of the Earthshot Prize follows the airing earlier in October of a new documentary, “A Planet for Us All”, where a film crew followed the Duke and Duchess for two years as they traveled and engaged in efforts to understand and draw attention to environmental threats. In that 90-minute ITV documentary, the Prince speaks about the influences that have made environmental conservation his passion. Not surprisingly, the now 38-year-old Prince credits the future for his children as a primary factor.


“Now I’ve got George, Charlotte and now Louis; your outlook does change,” Prince William shares on camera. “And that’s why I had to do something, because I really felt that by the time my children were 20, at the rate poaching was at, there may not be another rhino in the world,” says the Prince while filmed during a trip to Tanzania.


The Prince also credits family influences in developing his strong focus on conservation, including his father, Charles, the Prince of Wales. His brother, Prince Harry, is also a vocal supporter of environmental causes.


The Prize is focused on five “earthshots” that can improve life on the planet and are also tied to shared global goals, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.  The five are: protecting and restoring nature, realizing clean air, revitalizing our oceans, building a waste-free world and fixing the climate crisis.



Financially supporting efforts to combat climate change and other environmental causes have recently drawn more attention within organized philanthropy.  For example, a report released in January of this year by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors showed that among the world’s wealthiest family foundations, only 8% of giving went to environmental issues. This same report also found that environmental issues ranked higher in priority among those family foundations that seek to spend down all their assets in a set timeframe.


Another study showed that elections could also drive philanthropic giving in significant ways. A 2020 report from Campbell & Company found that following the 2016 election in the US, overall charitable giving to environmental causes nearly doubled in the U.S.


Within philanthropy, the urgency to address the climate crisis is clearly picking up steam, and the Earthshot Prize is riding that wave, adding both resources and royal gravitas into the mix. 


“I feel it is my duty, and our collective responsibility to leave our planet in a stronger position for our children,” Prince William shared with Radio Times magazine.  


Perhaps you have an idea or a potential nominee in mind.  Nominations for the Prize open on November 1. More information can be found at the Prize’s website earthshotprize.org


By: William Smith Philanthropy Contributor Polo Lifestyles 2020

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