Prince Philip, Nature Conservation and The Faiths

Judith Allinson and Barbara Echlin reflect

Judith Allinson, Green Christian Web Editor writes:

Many of us in Green Christian mourn the loss of the Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh. on 9 April 2021. We are thankful for his life and all that he did.

He has made many speeches about care of the environment.

I often think that in travelling to the different parts of the Commonwealth and world he was able to see first hand the splendid wildlife in our world – and also see how it is disappearing.

I worked briefly (6 weeks) at the headquarters of WWF International near Geneva in 1987. One night whilst, working late, a message come though on the Fax machine. It was a speech that the Duke was giving that day in Australia. (This was pre-World Wide Web times). I felt so proud somehow to be linked to his speech.

In 1988 the book “Down to Earth – Speeches and Writings of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on the relationship of man with his environment.” was published.

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister gave a tribute speech on 9th April about The Duke of Edinburgh – saying “He was an environmentalist, and a champion of the natural world long before it was fashionable.”

Many of us cared about the environment then, too. If only more people had acted. And many of the speeches in the book are still so relevant today.

I remember in 1986 hearing on the radio about the Assisi Declarations, announced at a meeting in Assisi involving the different religions of the world. People had made pilgrimages to get there. It was held on the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Fund for Nature. The Duke of Edinburgh had encouraged the WWF to hold this. Statements were made by representatives of five faiths. The Duke of Edinburgh attended and gave a speech.” See a record of an interview about this with Prince Philip on the ARC website

Barbara Echlin recalls:

The Duke of Edinburgh was less than impressed with the contribution from the Christian representative at Assisi. He returned home and arranged for the Dean of Windsor to set up a series of weekend meetings to consider the Christian attitude to nature, to be held at St George’s House, Windsor Castle.

Martin Palmer, the Duke’s advisor on faith and the environment for many decades, saw an article, ‘Who in Solihull cares about dolphins?’ by my husband, Edward Echlin, and we were both invited to attend the weekends.

The Duke attended part of every weekend and chaired the final sessions himself. My memory of the Duke is his passionate concern for the environment, especially the realisation of what extinction means – the irrevocable death of a species, gone for eternity.

He had strong opinions, expressed forcefully, but we discovered he enjoyed talking with people who disagreed with his arguments and were prepared to stand their ground. Yes, he made gaffes, but that was just part of the man. In the same week that he made his famous remark about squinty eyes, which everyone remembers, the book “Survival or Extinction – a Christian Attitude to the environment” was published with a thoughtful introduction from the Duke – an achievement known only to a few.

He carried on his theological arguments with occasional exchanges of letters with Edward for several years after the Windsor consultations ended.

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Martin Palmer was the Secretary General of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) until June 2019. ARC was founded with HRH Prince Philip in 1995 to help faiths develop environmental and conservation projects based on their own beliefs and practices. Although ARC closed in 2019, having achieved its major goals, its legacy includes FaithInvest and WWF’s International Beliefs and Values Programme.


Quotes by Prince Philip – as given in his book “Down to Earth” . (I plan to add a few more)

  1. At an address on 24 Nov 1983 in his address to a World Wildlife Fund dinner at Bombay said:

The last, and I believe the most important answer is the moral imperative. There may be lots of demonstrable practical reasons for conservation, but you have to believe that it is also right as opposed to wrong, and convinced that it is good as opposed to bad, for it own sake.Only a commitment to this altruistic, objective, indeed religious attitude is capable of uniting and inspiring people of all kinds and all interests to grapple with the problems that mankind has created for the natural world. Indeed I suggest that conservation is the only issue that is truly international, inter-denominational, inter-idealogical and inter-racial.

The moral imperative is recognised by all the great religions.. Then he goes on to give examples.

2. p203: on Tropical rainforests

In fact if you look around, you will notice that the main desert areas of this world each sustained an advanced civilisation until the demand for resources particularly of timber, became greater than the rate at which they could be replaced.. (gives examples).

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Author: Editor 1 | Date: 10 April, 2021 | Category: Biodiversity | Comments: 2


Comments on "Prince Philip, Nature Conservation and The Faiths"

Fran Stanfield:

April 11, 2021

I found a dilemna in that he hunted however.I was horrified that he took his yound grandsons out to kill after the death of their mother. How did he square the circle?

Stephen Johnson:

April 10, 2021

Thank you very much for these timely reminders of the Duke's passion for life in all its' forms and the dangers to it from the top of the food chain, yours truly. Isn't it such a shame that senior citizens like him with such a rich experience of life and then a wisdom earned from that are put out, sometimes self-imposed, to pasture at a certain point and nothing is heard from them again? If only the Royal Family were listened to with more respect and less ridicule and if only the Duke and his son had kept on keeping on with leading this fight to conserve nature and protect it from...that's right...Us, the so-called 'crown of creation'! God rest his soul. Oh, how short memories are.


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