On 30 November 2009, Prince Albert II addressed Washington’s National Press Club with a speech in which he detailed his passion for the preservation of global environments, in particular the polar regions, of which he himself has considerable recent knowledge having visited both poles with in the last three years.
It was the Arctic expedition, made 90 years after the same journey was undertaken by his great-grandfather Albert I, that inspired the prince to his current crusade on behalf of the ecology. The 150 kilometre trek convinced him of global warming, particularly, he said, on seeing the reduction in size of the famous Lilliehöök glacier in the Spitsbergen archipelago. Over the years since his great-grandfather, the Sailor prince, photographed it, it has reduced in size by over four miles, he said.
The prince’s support for such causes has made him something of a celebrity in the States, where his Foundation has signed up to partnership deals with a whole range of similar initiatives. Immediately after his speech, he signed a memorandum with the Pew Charitable Trusts, among whose projects is the preservation not only of ocean life but also wilderness areas such as the Burrell Forest in British Columbia.
In answering questions, the Prince, by his own confession not a scientist, provoked some laughter when a member of the audience had to answer a question for him concerning the Antarctic climate. But the prince recovered with a series of well-answered questions from the floor.
Flanked by flag of Monaco, he explained that his own enthusiasms had been fostered by his close relationship with his father, Rainier III whom he accompanied on many trips abroad to political summits. He also cited a 1970s anti-pollution poster as instrumental in enthusing him about the environment as a boy. And he spoke warmly of Monaco as a country which makes a virtue of its small dimensions by acting as a test-bed for such ecological projects, and also as a useful broker between bigger countries.
A tough question about the reliability of scientific data elicited this response from the prince: the evidence is visible to all, and if we challenge it we will sacrifice future generations to our own selfish comfort. He also suggested that even though the coming Copnhagen summit may not meet its aims, it was important to make a start – however modest. And it was the prince’s modesty which seemed to give strength to that argument.
It was a clearly amicable event. The prince is popular here, too, because of his mother’s reputation as a film actress. In the only off-topic question of the afternoon, the prince revealed that his own favourite Grace Kelly movie is ‘Rear Window’. ‘It’s an incredible story’, he said, ‘and incredible for the quality of the relationship between Jimmy Stewart and my mother’.