The Prince of Wales has described humanity’s exploitation of nature as “insanity” and called on nations to listen to the “wisdom of indigenous communities”.
Interviewed by novelist Margaret Atwood during her guest editorship of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Charles said such people really understand the threat the planet faces.
The heir to the throne said some people thought he was “completely dotty” to speak out about environmental issues as a young man in 1970.
Charles said: “I’ve been talking to quite a lot of the First Nations leaders in Canada over the last year, and it’s high time we paid more attention to their wisdom, and the wisdom of indigenous communities and First Nations people all around the world.
“We can learn so much from them as to how we can re-right the balance and start to rediscover a sense of the sacred, because nature – Mother Nature – is our sustainer, we are part of nature. We are nature.
“We are a microcosm of the macrocosm, but we’ve forgotten that, or somehow been brainwashed into thinking that we have nothing to do with nature, nature can just be exploited.
“And if we go on exploiting where we are, whatever we do to nature, however much pollution, we do to ourselves – it is insanity.”
Charles also spoke about his lifelong campaigning in support of the natural world.
In 1970 he gave a landmark speech on the environment when he warned about the problems of plastic waste, chemicals discharged into rivers and air pollution caused by factories, cars and planes.
Atwood asked if he faced any “pushback” for his views, and Charles replied: “A great deal, if I may say so, but nobody really wanted to know at the time, they thought I was completely dotty.”
He told the author he became interested in environmental issues in the early 1960s – a period when it appeared “nothing was sacred”.
Charles said: “I was witnessing the destruction of so much natural habitat, the grubbing up of hedgerows, the cutting down of trees, the draining of wetlands, the whole works, and at the same time, the destruction of the priceless historic legacy of our towns and cities.”
Now he is concerned about the latest innovations because as “human beings we tend to get somewhat carried away by new technologies of convenience”.
Charles told the author: “For instance, you only have to think about the introduction of nano fibres and nano particles into the environment without, I felt at the time, adequate research (which) has led now to all of these micro plastics in the oceans and elsewhere in the environment.”
He added: “I remember at the time reading about these new technologies and feeling that the key issue always, I think, is to find a balance. So you need to look at what these technologies are going to do in the long term, and then try to adjust them.”
Charles also said his concerns about what he felt was the overuse of artificial fertilisers made from fossil fuels, antibiotics and grass promoting hormones in beef production led him to try organic farming.
He believed there was a way to get results from those with little regard for the environment: “If you introduce the ‘polluter pays’ system, it will instantly start to get us onto the right track, put it that way.”