The Earthshot Prize: A bright spot in a bleak year3 min read

Counselled by the likes of Prince William and Sir David Attenborough, the Earthshot Prize might be what the planet needs right now.

What is the Earthshot Prize?  

According to the official website, over the next 10 years, £50 million will be distributed by the prize to tackle global environmental issues. The prize is open for anyone to win, and five individuals, communities, businesses or organisations will be awarded £1 million each year. The aim is to create “at least 50  solutions to the world’s greatest environmental problems by 2030.”

The Earthshot cover five key areas fundamental to repairing our planet. These five aims are to protect and restore nature, clean our air, revive our oceans, build a waste-free world and fix our climate.

Why was it created?  

For over 20 years, a digital clock in Union Square, New York, known as Metronome has been showing the time of day. In September, it began to display a very different countdown; a countdown until the effects of global warming become irreversible. At the time of writing, it displays about seven years and 79 days.

Sir David Attenborough, a member of the prize’s council, has been an advocate for the environment for over 50 years. His recently premiered documentary, David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet, is a call to action, one that the Earthshot Prize stands as a response to.

Both the Metronome and Sir Attenborough’s documentary serve the purpose of highlighting how dire the situation is. The Earthshot prize does the same, while also looking for solutions. What makes the prize stand out is that it is not aiming for one overarching answer. Instead, it broke the issue down into multiple sections and is looking for a variety of solutions to these areas.

What does this mean for the future?

The announcement of the prize comes just one month before the US is due to pull out of the  Paris agreement. In 2015, almost 200 countries signed onto the Paris agreement as a pledge to work together against greenhouse gas emissions. The US is the only country to leave the agreement.

Meanwhile, five of the six largest fires in California’s history have occurred this year. Also, the Brazilian rainforest is on fire again and has been since early September.

Prince William told the BBC: “I also worry from a mental health point of view, the anxiety and the worry that many of these younger generations are going to have. Hearing about what we’re talking about, it’s going to weigh on them. And they don’t [deserve] to inherit a world that is full of doom and gloom.”

The prize is very much a step in the right direction. But unless humanity makes an active effort to support the earth, the effects of climate change will become irreversible.

Forest fire at Klamath National Forest, California – Matt Howard/Unsplash

What can be done?

Most of the responsibility falls to corporations and governments. In 2018, it was estimated that emissions from “just 90 companies contributed for nearly 50% of the rise in global mean surface temperature since the end of the Industrial Revolution.”

Despite this, individuals can still ensure that their impact is positive rather than negative.  Simple things like reusable cups and opting for groceries packed with recyclable materials can have an impact. Some organisations like Tree-Nation will plant trees on an individual’s behalf to offset their carbon emissions, and others like TeamTrees project will plant per donation.

Paweł Czerwiński/Unsplash

The Earthshot name was inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s Moonshot, which united millions of people to put men on different terrain; the moon. Instead, now we must unite to save the ground that we stand on. With enough luck and skill, the Earthshot Prize may be the driving force for this cooperation.

Alexandra Clay


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