You hardly could blame Prince Charles for the raspy voice with which he lectured the students of Georgetown University last week, what with his speech on sustainable food coming just five days after the multimillion-dollar wedding of his son, Prince William, to the charming commoner Kate Middleton.
After all, when you’re partying all night with Sir Elton John and a cadre of royals from around the globe, you’re likely to get a little hoarse.
Funny enough, the prince — a lifelong environmentalist who, for the past 26 years, has operated organic farms on some of his palatial estates — didn’t discuss the yummy varieties of food served days earlier at the lavish parties in honor of his son and daughter-in-law.
Rather than recap the endless array of canapes and cakes served at the queen’s luncheon for 650 guests, or describe the menu at the private party he hosted for 300 personal friends the evening of the wedding, Prince Charles urged attendees of a conference on the “future of food” to protect the Earth’s soil ecosystems and promoted the expanded use of animal waste and other natural composts.
Personally, I’d have been more interested in knowing about the preparation of the organic lamb served three ways, crab from Wales (where else?) served with mini crab timbale (mousse, for you foodies; “what is this stuff?” for the uninitiated), followed by chocolate fondant and homemade ice cream in gingersnap baskets.
Then again, I’m a Food Network junkie. Menus interest me.
The prince has been a leader in food politics for nearly 30 years. What began as the ranting of an eccentric oddball, (Remember the whole “talking to plants” thing? And the solitary trips to remote places to meditate? And the rants against modern architecture?) has, over time, become the passionate cause of a man in search of relevance.
Never mind that he continues his quest to name the red squirrel Britain’s national mascot. (“For me, the battle for the red squirrel is iconic,” he has said.)
It turns out that what seemed entirely wacko some 30 years ago was only cutting-edge eco-radicalism.
Prince Charles, once an international punch line, now is taken seriously as an advocate for the Earth, owing to his commitment to sustainable farming (read: opposition to chemical fertilizer and corporate food production).
Yet it must be noted that even on his farmlands, which are heavily subsidized by the British people, Prince Charles’ agricultural efforts reportedly have never turned a profit.
No matter. Right is right, even down on the farm.
The prince’s pronouncements about sustainable food caught the attention of husband and wife documentary film producers Phelim McAleer and Anne McElhinney. Their short film, “Prince Charles – Hypocrite” (available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhpNJAKq7dE ) points out the extraordinary contradiction between Prince Charles’ cause and his lifestyle.
For example, he traveled 16,000-plus miles across South America in a converted luxury airbus with only 14 passengers in order to preach the gospel of sustainable energy. Suffice to say, the airbus was not a hybrid.
His urgings about sustainable farming are equally conflicted.
“Innovations in agriculture with the use of pesticides, refrigeration, farm machinery and genetic modifications mean that more people are being fed more, and even more can be done if development stays on track,” Mrs. McElhinney said. “It is depressing to hear from the super-rich Prince Charles, who believes these lifesaving developments should be curtailed.”
In his Georgetown speech, the prince conveniently left out the fact that certain environmental practices, such as using agricultural products for biofuels, actually have driven up the cost of food for the world’s poorest people.
Meanwhile, according to news reports, a sport utility vehicle that was part of the prince’s motorcade in the District was kept running while he gave his 40-minute talk.
Maybe they were worried about sustaining the air conditioning for the future monarch.
“[The British scholar] Thomas Malthus, writing in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, argued that food production would not keep pace with the rising population and therefore we were all doomed to starvation and death. It is hilarious that literally centuries later Prince Charles is preaching the same doom despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary,” Mrs. McElhinney said.