Foneddigion a Boneddigesau, mae’n dda iawn gen allu galw heibio sir fy nghartref Cymreig ar y daith hon i ddathlu Gwyl Cam Cyntaf Cymru. [Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be able to make this visit to the county of my Welsh home during this tour to celebrate the Wales START Festival.]
I would just like to start by saying how pleased I am as Patron, to be able to return to the National Botanic Garden today. As many of you may possibly know by now, I am currently on a week-long tour of the country, on the Royal Train – which, incidentally, is powered by biodiesel made from astonishingly eco-efficient, used cooking oil! - and trying to draw attention to this whole project. Needless to say, I am particularly grateful for the support of the Gardens in hosting this START Wales festival as I know just how much work has gone into making this happen in such an inspirational location that lives and breathes the ideas behind START.
Of course, this is happily close to my house in Wales and I am especially delighted that my home county, Carmarthenshire, is leading the way in supporting its communities to take the simple steps needed to make better use of the Earth’s resources. I have met several inspiring examples of communities who are taking these positive steps and hope that the Carmarthenshire Community challenge launched today can be a catalyst to expand this work.
I am also delighted to be able to launch here in Wales, ‘The Green Guide for Historic Buildings’, which has been published by my Regeneration Trust. As I mentioned in my Foreword to the Guide, it is a true example of joined-up thinking, drawing together the stewardship of the UK’s heritage and the need to protect the environment and take action to minimize the effects of climate change. By holding the readers’ hands and taking them step by step through the process of introducing environmental adaptations to all sorts of historic and listed buildings, I hope that this Guide will empower people to find the right long-term solutions for their own important heritage buildings.
As Prince of Wales, I am proud that the Principality is leading the way in so many aspects of sustainable development – indeed it is one of the few countries in the world where its government has a legal duty to promote sustainable development in all that it does. We can make a difference on the big global issues by demonstrating this sort of leadership – no better illustrated I would suggest, than by the launch today of the Size of Wales project, which aims to mobilize the nation to secure an area of rainforest the Size of Wales.
With my own Rainforest Project acting as part of the inspiration for this initiative, I can only wish Size of Wales every success in mobilizing a whole nation to help sustain an area of tropical forest equivalent to its own size. Two million hectares – or, more usefully, two million rugby pitches! - will be a significant achievement and importantly, will show great leadership to other nations to do the same.
The Size of Wales project recognizes the very premise on which START is based - namely that mankind is in deep trouble. Our actions are changing the Earth’s climate, perhaps irreversibly, and we are consuming the natural resources that sustain us at a rate that cannot continue for long. Put simply, we are – right now – causing serious damage to our own and our childrens’ life-support systems, and time is running out to do something about it. None of this, I suspect, will be new to you. You have been bombarded for years by increasingly strident and doom-laden messages from every direction - from scientists, from politicians, from environmental groups, from film-makers and the Media and, yes, from me too! And that’s the problem. Knowledge of what is wrong is greatly outstripping any efforts to put things right. Yet all the talk about what needs to be done tends to be couched in terms of what we need to stop, reduce, cut or otherwise avoid.
It seemed to me that, for far too long, all the talk about an environmental future had been about stopping people doing what they wanted to do; reinforcing a stereotype that a green future would involve nothing but a life in sackcloth and ashes. Far too rarely did you hear about the positive stories which emerge from adopting environmentally-friendly practices.
The message of START is about encouraging and assisting everyone to take the first steps towards the world that we all want to live in. A clean, healthy, energy-efficient world that lives within the limits of its natural resources and that we can take pride in. START is a simple and positive message. It doesn’t lecture or hector anyone about anything, nor does it attempt to frighten them; instead it recognizes that however great the challenge, the first step is the most important. And it leads by example, showing what others are already doing and making it both simple and natural to follow in the right direction. START aims to show people the technologies, techniques and principles that exist now, which will not only improve our lives, but will also help the planet sustain us – all by operating more in harmony with Nature’s processes and cycles than against them. Framed in the positive, asked to start doing enjoyable, interesting and fulfilling things - with the added warm feeling of making a difference - a broader group of the public are much more likely to act. By telling a real truth about what living more sustainably can be about, I hope START can mark a genuine step change in the level of public engagement in a more balanced way of living.
If we get it right, we will leave a legacy for future generations of a stable environment and an enhanced quality of life. It is a huge challenge which can seem utterly overwhelming. But I believe, passionately, that we will never achieve what we need to unless we make a START.
Dyw hi ddim yn rhy hwyr i gymryd y cam cyntaf – gadewch i ni wneud hynny gyda’n gilydd. [It is not too late for us to make a START so let us do so together.]