Just months after the Royal Family made a show of seeking to hire a diversity, equity, and inclusion czar in the wake of Meghan Markle’s allegations of racism, Prince William’s latest comments on population control in Africa suggest that very little has changed behind palace gates.
Last week, at the Tusk conservation awards in London, the Prince reportedly said in a speech, “The increasing pressure on Africa’s wildlife and wild spaces, as a result of human population, presents a huge challenge for conservationists.” He added, “It is imperative that the natural world is protected not only for its contribution to our economies, jobs and livelihoods, but for the health, wellbeing and future of humanity.” The comments extend from a well of racist, imperialist thinking that often singles out non-white, less wealthy, and formerly colonized countries. The speech is particularly alarming coming from a future head-of-state of a country that was, not so long ago, the most dominant colonizing institution in the world.
Critics of Prince William’s remarks have pointed out that they’re nearly identical to a 2017 speech he gave at a gala for the same charity—all while expecting his third child. “In my lifetime, we have seen global wildlife populations decline by over half,” the Prince said at the time. Singling out the continent of Africa yet again, he added: “Africa’s rapidly growing human population is predicted to more than double by 2050—a staggering increase of three and a half million people per month. There is no question that this increase puts wildlife and habitat under enormous pressure.”
It’s worth noting that the poorest half of the world’s population produces just 10% of all carbon emissions, compared with the wealthiest 10%, which produces half of all emissions. Climate change and other ecological disasters can therefore be attributed more to wealthy people like, say, royals who attend wildly expensive charity galas about conservation. The wealthiest 16% of the world population also consumes 80% of all natural resources; 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions.
Despite the disproportionate ecological footprint of rich people and corporations, at least in the US, it’s notably people of color who foot the burden. One study found Black communities are exposed to 56% more pollution than the amount of pollution they cause, while Latinx communities are exposed to 63% more. In other words, as Earth veers closer and closer toward irreversible climate catastrophe, the Windsors won’t be the ones who suffer the consequences of this. And yet, figures like Prince William will often point their fingers at communities of color around the globe, pressuring the reproductive decisions of primarily Black families and families of color, and all but turning their wombs into sites for climate change policymaking.
The Prince’s comments sound uncannily similar to popular eco-fascist talking points, which demand that individuals sacrifice their interests and family planning desires in service of the well-being of the environment. As you might have guessed, these talking points are typically directed at people who aren’t white, wealthy, and/or royal.
William’s comments also notably come on the tail of the Crown facing very public allegations of private racism from Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. In a March interview with Oprah Winfrey, the couple said there had been concerns from within the family about the skin color of their children, and said that Markle had been denied support for her mental health struggles amid frequent, racist attacks from the British tabloids. Prince William responded tersely shortly afterward when questioned by reporters during a public event: “We are very much not a racist family.” But Markle’s comments about her individual experience as a Black, mixed-race woman who joined the royal family by marriage opened up a broader conversation about the Crown’s legacy as the largest colonizer in the world throughout much of history, and the entire institution’s modern failures to make amends for this. Despite a senior palace aide’s claim that the royal family supports Black Lives Matter, that very family continues to hold priceless stolen jewels from across Africa and Asia.
Much of the family’s wealth has historically been generated by theft, colonization, and enslavement, while demands for reparations from formerly colonized countries are met with silence. The only “help” the royals presently seem interested in offering appears to be patronizing, racist speeches to the entire continent of Africa to control their population growth. Maybe the Windsors could look at where they could be making some sacrifices, themselves.