he average person “doesn’t give a toss” about the environment and that needs to change, the founder of the Big Issue said in the House of Lords.
Lord Bird’s informal turn of phrase raised eyebrows and spread chuckles among other peers in the upper chamber.
In response, the environment minister Lord Goldsmith of Richmond agreed that the natural world was “not a niche concern”.
The exchange came during a debate in the Lords on the relationship between the emergence of pandemics and environmental degradation.
Lord Bird said: “When are we going to break out of the idea that the environment is a cul-de-sac, it is something that we can take or we can leave?
“When are we going to lead in this country and spread the idea of the importance of the environment across every section of society – to the woman on the third floor of a block of council flats in Hackney?
“I do feel that we are always dealing with a very, very small amount of people who are very, very interested in it and the vast majority don’t give a toss.”
Lord Goldsmith said: “He makes an extremely important point. I want to agree with him here by saying that the environment is not a niche concern. Everything we have, everything we are, everything we do comes from the natural world.
“As we destroy the natural world, ultimately we destroy ourselves.
“It seems like an obvious thing to say but it does unfortunately still need to be said and recognition of that fact runs through all departments of the UK Government. This is a top international and domestic priority for us.”
The heir to the throne called for collaboration between science and industry to rapidly develop both nature and technology-based solutions.
Charles said that “nature-based solutions are not alternatives to scaling up technologies” and “must not be forced to compete with each other”.
Additional reporting by PA