Prince William says coronavirus pandemic has been a chance to 'refocus our priorities'

Brian Lawless – WPA Pool/Getty ImagesBy KATIE KINDELAN and ZOE MAGEE, ABC News

(LONDON) — Prince William is opening up about protecting the environment and what he describes as a “ray of light” amid the devastation of the global coronavirus pandemic.

“I can’t talk about coronavirus without mentioning about how many people sadly lost their lives and how terrible and sad that all is. But I think the tiny little ray of light, if, if there’s any ray of light from this, is that it allows us to take stock and to refocus our priorities,” William said in a new documentary, adding that he’s been lucky to have been “surrounded by wildlife” while quarantined during the pandemic. “I’ve been really heartened by what I’ve been hearing from other people and how they’ve started to appreciate nature and experience it, and see all the things that they never thought they would.”

“The detail’s come out, because they have had the time,” said William, who is second in line to the British throne.

William’s passion for conservation and the environment is the focus of a new documentary, Prince William: A Planet for Us All, premiering Oct. 5 on ITV in the United Kingdom.

The documentary shows what ITV describes as “exclusive access” to William over two years as he works on what is described as the prince’s “global mission to champion action for the natural world.”

“We’ve seen from coronavirus, organizations mobilizing themselves like never before,” William says in the documentary. “The research collaboration, the sharing of expertise, money found to support people. If we can provide the same motivation with the environment we will have truly turned a corner. Investment, green fashion. We need to build back greener. Young people won’t stand for saying it’s not possible.”

William says he finds optimism in and a greater commitment to his environmental work because of young people.

“I owe it to them to help their voices be heard,” he said. “That generational gap has to be bridged somehow so that the older political leaders understand that the younger generation mean business. They want their futures protected. I feel it is my duty and our collective responsibility to leave our planet in a stronger position for our children.”

William says his passion for the environment started as a young child and he shares a connection with the outdoors with his own three kids, Prince William, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

The family, including Duchess Kate, met last week at Kensington Palace with legendary TV host and natural historian Sir David Attenborough, who is also featured in the new documentary.

“Every generation, you know, after yours, David, has grown up listening and seeing all the things that you’ve shown them. And, hopefully, each generation listens a little bit more,” William tells him in the documentary, while Kate tells the historian that George, Charlotte and Louis are “massive fans” of his.

The documentary also follows Kate and William on their trip to Pakistan last year, where Kate explains why the couple chose to visit the Hindu Kush mountains and see the effects of global warming there.

“Everyone’s asking all of us to protect the environment and what comes first is actually just to care about it in the first place,” Kate says. “And you’re not necessarily going to care about it if you don’t know about it and that’s why we thought it was so important to come here.”

“It’s a huge environmental and humanitarian disaster, and yet, we still don’t seem to be picking up the pace and understanding it quick enough. And I think the young are really getting it. And the younger generation are really wanting more and more people to do stuff and want more action,” William added. “And we’ve got to speed the pace up. We’ve got to get on top of it and we need to be more vocal and more educational about what’s going on.”

Protecting the environment is a cause close to the heart of not just William, but also his brother, Prince Harry, and his father, Prince Charles, and grandfather, Prince Philip. All four royals have been involved in conservation efforts around the world.

William describes Philip and Charles as being ahead of their time when it comes to their environmental work, and says he is working now to make sure his oldest son, 7-year-old George, says the same about him.

“My grandfather, my father, have been in the conservation, the environmental work for many years. My grandfather was well ahead of his time. My father was ahead of his time,” said William. “And I really want to make sure that, in 20 years, George doesn’t turn around and say, ‘Are you ahead of your time?’ Because if he does, we’re too late.”

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