LONDON — Britain’s Prince William has criticized some of the world’s richest men for using their wealth to fund a new space race and space tourism rather than trying to fix the problems on Earth instead.
William voiced his disapproval in an interview with the BBC aired Thursday, a day after the former “Star Trek” actor William Shatner became the oldest man to fly to space, in a rocket funded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
“We need some of the world’s greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live,” said William, who is second-in-line to the British throne.
On Wednesday, the 90-year-old Shatner, who is best known for playing Captain James T. Kirk in the 1960s television series “Star Trek,” briefly flew into space with Bezos’ space travel company, Blue Origin. Billionaires Elon Musk and Richard Branson are also pumping resources into their own space ambitions.
Asked whether he would like to become a space tourist, William said “I have absolutely no interest in going that high.”
“I’ve been up to 65,000 feet once in a plane, that was truly terrifying,” said William, who served in the Royal Air Force as a helicopter pilot. “That’s high enough.”
William, who is formally known as the Duke of Cambridge, was speaking about climate change ahead of his inaugural Earthshot environmental prize awards ceremony on Sunday and two weeks before a U.N. climate summit starts in the Scottish city of Glasgow at the end of the month.
During the star-studded ceremony at Alexandra Palace in London, which will see five sustainability projects win 1 million pounds ($1.35 million) each, William will be joined by his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge. The awards take their inspiration from the Moonshot challenge that President John F. Kennedy set for the U.S. in 1961 to land humans on the moon by the end of the decade — a challenge that was met eight years later.
The winners will be chosen by a committee including veteran broadcaster David Attenborough, actor Cate Blanchett and World Trade Organization director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
William, who has been immersed in environmental issues all his life through the strong interest of his father, Prince Charles, and his late grandfather, Prince Philip, voiced his worries about the world his own children will inherit.
He said it would be an “absolute disaster” if his 8-year-old eldest son Prince George, who he said is “acutely aware” of how resources impact the planet, was having to raise the same issues in 30 years’ time.
“Young people now are growing up where their futures are basically threatened the whole time,” William said. “It’s very unnerving and it’s very you know, anxiety-making.”
Echoing comments from his father, William urged world leaders to put words into action at the U.K. climate summit in Glasgow, known as COP26.
“I think for COP to communicate very clearly and very honestly what the problems are and what the solutions are going to be, is critical,” William said.
The summit is scheduled to take place Oct. 31-Nov. 12. It is being billed by many environmentalists as the world’s last chance to turn the tide in the battle against climate change.
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