President John F. Kennedy’s Moon Shot called upon Americans to meet "an hour of change and challenge" by putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. His speech and the space program it launched united millions of people around a highly ambitious goal, and it inspired a generation of scientists and engineers, who accelerated our technological progress and helped propel us toward an era of extraterrestrial travel.
An hour of change and challenge is upon us again, but this time the question isn’t whether we can reach the moon. It’s whether we can save the Earth.
The environmental devastation we are witnessing – including record-breaking temperatures across the world; wildfires in the American West, Turkey and Greece; historic flooding in Western Europe, the East Coast of the United States and Central China; and the drought-driven famines in East Africa – is larger than what was feared possible even a year ago.
For so many, simply breathing air and drinking water is now a health hazard. Many others have seen their food supplies grow scarce and their livelihoods threatened by disruptions to the climate, including in the ocean.
The science tells us that this is the decade to act – and that waiting is not an option. Without bold and decisive action, future generations will look back and ask: How could they advance so far in space while leaving their own planet – and their own communities – so vulnerable?
We must meet this moment with the optimistic spirit of President Kennedy’s Moon Shot. To promote that goal, one of us (Prince William) established The Earthshot Prize, a global effort to find and celebrate solutions to the world's greatest environmental challenges over the next 10 years.
A great list of founding partners have signed on to help sustain and promote the prize, including the Bezos Earth Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Jack Ma Foundation and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.
It is a new call to action to the world: to unleash and support a new generation of invention, innovation and entrepreneurship propelled by a shared sense of urgency to address the crisis at hand and optimism that humanity can achieve seemingly insurmountable goals.
In November, The Earthshot Prize began a global search for 15 ground-breaking innovations aimed at achieving five goals: protecting and restoring nature, cleaning our air, reviving our oceans, building a waste-free world and fixing our climate.
Guided by experts around the world and an esteemed Prize Council, we have uncovered a wealth of immensely promising and inspiring work being done by individuals, governments, grassroots organizations and businesses.
Climate change is real. So are the solutions.
We see an incredible new global wave of innovators and entrepreneurs turning crises into opportunities, developing breakthrough solutions that can regenerate our planet while stimulating livelihoods. It’s an unseen movement that we are determined will become a powerful engine behind a new growth economy, and a new, better way of life for all.
The Earthshot Prize will award five, 1 million-pound ($1.37 million U.S. dollars) prizes each year for the next 10 years to these inspiring innovators and pioneers, providing at least 50 solutions to the world’s greatest environmental problems by 2030.
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Next month, in London, we will announce the inaugural five winners. Alongside the runners-up, they will also receive support from a growing global alliance of investors and like-minded organizations in the public, private and nonprofit sectors who will look for and seize opportunities to increase the impact of each of the solutions. Every partner will add value. Working with urgent optimism, we will catalyze innovation and scale truly groundbreaking solutions.
The race to put a man on the moon created new jobs, launched new companies and spurred technological innovations that have spread and improved lives all over the planet – long after the Moon Shot mission had been completed.
The race to defeat climate change and protect the environment will be no different. The same steps that advance technology and cut carbon pollution also create jobs in new industries, while protecting public health and the natural resources we all depend on – changes that will benefit generations to come.
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One of the most poignant moments of the Moon Shot program was when astronaut William Anders, onboard Apollo 8, captured the famous Earthrise image on Christmas Eve, 1968, allowing us to see Earth from space for the first time – and to see more clearly our responsibility for protecting it.
We are behind, but ready to catch up
What President Kennedy said in 1962 to Americans about the race to the moon is true today about our work to regenerate the planet.
"We are behind," he said. “But we do not intend to stay behind, and in this decade, we shall make up and move ahead.”
President Kennedy’s generation made up and moved ahead. Now it’s our turn.
Prince William, a member of the British royal family, established The Earthshot Prize in 2020. Michael Bloomberg is former mayor of New York, the United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Ambition and Solutions, and global adviser to The Earthshot Prize winners.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Prince William, Mike Bloomberg: We can conquer climate change together