Prince William Reveals How a 'Shy Black Rhino' Was Behind His Earthshot Prize A-Ha Moment

Prince William explains how an awe-inspiring sight led him to "to building a team to deliver the most ambitious environmental prize in history"

The Duke of Cambridge
Photo: Erica Wilson Studio Silverback/Courtesy Discovery+ / BBC

Innovation takes root in the most unexpected place — just ask Prince William!

According to the foreword he wrote for Earthshot: How to Save Our Planet, a trip to Namibia three years ago planted the seeds of the epiphany that led to his groundbreaking Earthshot Prize.

On his trip to southwest Africa, he caught a "fleeting glance" of rare black rhino and herds of springbok and oryx among the rich, diverse wildlife. And in the communities he visited, he saw a sense of "optimism and determination" among locals both to conserve local wildlife and to thrive alongside it.

But when he came home to the U.K., he witnessed world leaders fighting over climate change proposals, pointing fingers and succumbing to division.

The despondency he felt in that moment ran counter to the spirit of hope, innovation and activism he'd seen from his father Prince Charles and grandfather Prince Philip, who endeavored "to be pioneers in the environmental movement" in their time.

Royal vacation spots
Prince William. Chris Jackson/Getty

But, William writes in the new book, this sense of a "disconnect" was what ultimately spurred him to action. Suddenly, he writes, "I went from a 5 a.m. start to catch a fleeting glimpse of a shy black rhino in the north-west corner of Namibia, to building a team to deliver the most ambitious environmental prize in history."

William, 39, began work to establish Earthshot, which was also informed by his longtime fascination with U.S. President John F. Kennedy's wildly ambitious 1960s Moonshot space exploration initiative. Earthshot encourages all of us charge forward in the coming decade, working together to find innovative solutions to our global environmental peril.

Earthshot - How to Save our Planet
The jacket for the new Earthshot book. Hodder & Stoughton General Division

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On Friday, the prince unveiled the 15 finalists who are in the running for one of five $1.4 million prizes and the vast support from William's Royal Foundation that come with it.

"I am honored to introduce the 15 innovators, leaders, and visionaries who are the first ever Finalists for The Earthshot Prize," he said. "They are working with the urgency required in this decisive decade for life on Earth and will inspire all of us with their optimism in our ability to rise to the greatest challenges in human history.

In the lead up to the gala prize giving, a landmark series of five films, The Earthshot Prize: Repairing Our Planet, that William has helped make, along with the team from Sir David Attenborough's groundbreaking nature shows, will air globally on discovery+ from October 3. Then, all five episodes of the series will air on Discovery in the U.S. on October 16 beginning at 4pm ET. The award ceremony will be streamed live on Discovery's Facebook page on Sunday, October 17.

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