After a busy day in Tonga, Meghan and Harry are back in Sydney attending the annual Australian Geographic Society Awards.
The arrival came after a very turbulent flight back to Sydney, where the plane carrying the couple had to abort its landing in Sydney because another aircraft was on the runway below. According to reports the airplane came within seconds of landing but the pilot had to pull away again and re-approach when the coast was clear.
BBC journalist Simon Atkinson posted a video from the first attempted landing.
Meghan made a real fairy tale entrance to the awards
Tonight’s event are held at Sydney’s Shangri-La hotel. The hotel opened for the first time back in 1992 and is located in the heart of Sydney’s heritage Rocks district on the edge of Sydney Harbour, and within walking distance to the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House.
An overview from the event
The awards were founded in 1987 by Dick Smith and is Australia’s longest-running award for scientific research and adventure. It is judged on merit and therefore not all the categories are awarded annually.
The winners are awarded with a gold medallion.
Meghan and Harry attended tonights event to present two awards.
Harry presented the award for Young Adventurer of the Year to 17-year-old Jade Hameister. When she was only 14, she skied to the North Pole and became the youngest woman to cross Greenland a year later, and this year completed a 37-day journey to the South Pole. She is the youngest person to complete the polar hat-trick.
Meghan on the other hand, presented the award for Young Conservationist of the Year to Sophia Skarparis. Aged 15, she started a petition this year to ban plastic bags in New South Wales, which led to a meeting with the state premier and her petition being debated in the NSW Parliament this week.
The Queen was also honored at today’s event, with a special award for conservation for her initiative to highlight the plight of the world’s forests. Harry accepted the award on her behalf, which was given to her for the ‘outstanding contribution’ to global conservation she had, recognizing the impact of the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy, an initiative launched in 2015.
After picking up the award, Harry gave an impassioned speech, in which he warned there ‘cannot be any more excuses’ when it comes to protecting the planet.
“As all of us in this room know, looking after our environment is a lifelong commitment. We are all part of a global family and we share the understanding and universal privilege of being able to inhabit this earth, with its natural wonders, glorious flora and fauna and biodiversity, from sky to sea, that is awe inspiring.
But I use the word privilege for a reason, because with privilege comes great responsibility.
To highlight this point, I wanted to share a few excerpts from a well-known conservationist. He starts by saying: Conservation means being aware of the total environment we live in. It does not mean simply preserving every hedgerow, tree, field or insect in sight, but means thinking rationally and consciously just as much about the urban environment as about the countryside.
There is an unbalanced trend in our own time, when we have armoured ourselves with such an arsenal of machines and chemicals to do what we like to nature, and to reshape the world, that it has led us to see ourselves as somehow separate from, and superior to, nature. He continues to say: There was a time, when as human beings we thought the world belonged to us. Now we are beginning to realise that we actually belong to the world. We are responsible to it, and to each other. And that whatever we do to nature, whether it is on the grandest scale or just in our own gardens, is ultimately something that we are doing to our own deepest selves. We have not been put on this planet to destroy it.
Ladies and gentleman, those words were shared in speeches dating back to 1970 and up until 2002, by my father, The Prince of Wales. And yet now, nearly 50 years later, those sentiments resonate just as much today, if not more, than ever before. My father and others have been speaking about the environment for decades – not basing it on fallacy or new-age hypothesis, but rooted in science and facts, and the sobering awareness of our environmental vulnerability. And while those speeches would sometimes fall on deaf ears, he and others were unrelenting in their commitment to preserve the most valuable resource we have – our planet.
But let that be a cautionary tale. We are all here tonight because we care deeply about using the world’s resources wisely and safeguarding them for future generations. And, I am certain we are more aware of the need for this balance now, than ever before. We must appreciate our planet and what it has to offer. The world we live in cannot be replicated or tamed – it is a wild place where beauty takes time to form, in most cases, thousands of years, and without it, we are nothing.
Year after year, we hear increasing reports of human-wildlife conflict, how little time we have before it’s too late to counter the impact of climate change, and how we can no longer sacrifice sustainability in development. The idea that these are the next generation’s problems is not a view we can accept. I know that here in Australia you have particular challenges such as coral bleaching on your magnificent Great Barrier Reef, recurring drought, and ever increasing bush fires. It is absolutely heartbreaking to see your natural treasures being changed forever. I was amazed to see that Australia supports up to 700,000 native species, a high proportion of which are found nowhere else on earth.
So as Australians, the excellent work that you are doing to preserve your native biodiversity is really important, not just for your own benefit, but for the whole planet. But I am confident that positive and permanent change is on the horizon. Young people now innately understand far better than previous generations that we simply cannot continue to destroy our natural world, without facing major, irreversible consequences. And they understand that many of the solutions we need to tackle these issues can be found by working together and empowering communities to come up with long-lasting, sustainable solutions.
That’s why tonight I have been so inspired by the awardees who are making such a remarkable difference in their communities, and I hope this platform will inspire others to do the same. These are lessons we have all learnt and which we must urgently act upon. We cannot continue to pollute the oceans with plastics and other wastes. We cannot continue to breathe polluted air while cutting down our forests, or without reducing emissions. We cannot stand by and let our wildlife disappear from the earth and our fish from the seas. In closing, I think we can agree tonight that there cannot be any more excuses. Thanks to the tireless efforts of everyone in this room and the environmentalists and conservationists of the past, we are ready to translate our awareness into action.
It is going to take every single one of us to stop the clock on the destruction of our planet, and time is not on our side. The standard we walk past, is the standard we accept. It’s time to take personal responsibility and realise what a privilege it is for us to live alongside nature. Thank you for your dedication to our environment, our planet, our future, our Mother Nature.”
Meghan and Harry had a chat with the attendees afterwards – one of them was 15-year-old Sophia Skarpasis who Meghan awarded the award for Young Conservationist of the Year.
She said: ‘They congratulated me for the award and said how inspiring it was to see the next generation taking action. Harry, in particular, was incredible passionate about our work. Meghan told us to keep up the great work. She said she was really inspired by hearing what we had achieved. ‘
Editor in Chief of Australian Geographic, Chrissie Goldrick were thrilled to meet Harry and Meghan as well: ‘My head’s still in a bit of a spin. It’s incredible that he came to our event. It was a dream of ours to get him here. This runs in the family. Not only we have got Prince Harry out here, speaking on behalf of the environment in a powerful way, he’s not pulling any punches on his messages, but we also have Prince Charles, a long-term environmentalist from back in the 1970s and now we have the Queen who is behind the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy project in a major way.
You have got the three generations of that family stepping up for the environment.
They really do have a power to help people focus. I can believe we are still arguing about climate change.
So, when you get people like that who are not politicians or states people or scientists out there giving that message then people step up and take notice. ‘
She added ‘Harry said he really liked being among the company here tonight because he said this was a room full of people who are trying to change the world. ‘
A video from the event
They were gifted plenty of things – including books and a bear – for Baby Sussex
Meghan has really been keeping us all on our toes when it comes to style during this tour. With numerous outfit changes, and lots of custom designs, Meghan has me beyond excited to see what she’ll be spotted in next.
For tonight’s engagement she pulled out all the stops. Opting for an Oscar De La Renta gown, finished with embellishments by Parisian designer, Sarah Esmoingt, she certainly stole the show.
I’m obsessed with the cropped tulle skirt and that sheer lace neckline, which create a modern look for her. Plus, that delicate, ombre bird design ensures Meghan’s dress is one-of-a-kind. It’s from the label’s Pre-Fall 2018 collection, though unfortunately can’t be shopped online right now.
The designer tweeted:
She styled it with her Aquazzura Deneuve Bow pumps
She accessorised with her Birks Stackable Bee Chic Ring
If you’re just joining us, make sure to read the blogposts breaking down Meghan and Harry’s day in tonga beginning with a meeting with the Prime Minister of Tonga, ‘Akilisi Pōhiva
And their visit to the Visits Forest and College in Tonga
Which outfit was your favourite?
Tomorrow marks the last day of the Invictus Games. The couple will attend the wheelchair basketball finals and the Closing Ceremony for the tournament, where they’re both expected to give speeches.