A report by Valentine Low for the London Times.
The singer is one of 12 judges helping William choose the Earthshot winner
She is the Colombian singing star whose hips don’t lie and whose albums sell by the million. Now Shakira is about to help the Duke of Cambridge save the planet.
Shakira, possibly the only singer to have a parasitic wasp named after (because it causes its host to “shake and wiggle”), is one of 13 members of the council who will select the winners of Prince William’s £50 million Earthshot Prize.
As well as William and Sir David Attenborough, the other judges include the actress Cate Blanchett, the Chinese basketball player Yao Ming — both environmental campaigners — and Queen Rania of Jordan, who has championed the cause of sustainability.
Cate Blanchett, the Australian actress and environmental campaigner, is among the judges
Shakira, a philanthropist who founded her own charity for impoverished children, could become a key player in the duke’s efforts to spread his message around the world. Although she has done little green campaigning to date, she sees getting the green message across to poor children as an important part of protecting the environment.
A royal source said: “I think she will end up taking on quite a big role, particularly on impoverished children.”
Shakira said: “Your children, my children — they have to find ways to reduce carbon emissions, to repair our oceans, to clean the air. So we need young minds to be informed and invested, which is why education is so important. But we can’t just stand still. We have to lead the way and we have to do it now.
“I know it’s ambitious and I know there will be so many challenges along the way but I also know there will be so many who will rise to the occasion.”
Organisers of the prize have chosen judges from all around the world, deliberately picking at least one from each continent. Ranging from business people and activists to sports stars and other celebrities, some have been chosen for their global appeal while others are there for their environmental expertise. All, however, are meant to have at least a level of environmental credibility.
The real expertise, the organisers say, comes from the panel of experts who will advise the prize council.
The judges range from Dani Alves, the Brazil football captain, to Naoko Yamazaki, the Japanese astronaut who spent time on the International Space Station.
The source said: “We have tried to find people who have a reach that is different to ours, to ensure that this is not just about those who are engaged with environmental initiatives. It is about trying to attract new audiences.
“Dani Alves — by getting people who watch football engaged in this, particularly in South America, that is an enormous thing to do.”
Dani Alves said that the Earthshot panel made a good team
The entrepreneur and philanthropist Jack Ma, for instance, was hugely influential in China, the source said. “He has a massive following. People listen to him — he is very well respected.”
Ma said: “We only have one Earth in this world and the pandemic has made it clear that mankind cannot live without the Earth, but that Earth can live without mankind. Today we all live in the same forest that is already on fire. If we work together, we can all do a little bit today, and overcome our challenges,” he said.
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, from Chad, said that she leapt at the chance to take part
Alves said: “It’s the most important power in the world — nature. If you give it good things then nature gives good things back to you. We’re going to make a good team.”
Ms Yamazaki said: “It’s been more than half a century since human beings reached space and even the Moon. However, the Earth is our only home planet. When I saw the International Space Station, I saw it as a symbol of international collaboration. If we all put our forces together for a common goal, we can make a great achievement.”
Queen Rania of Jordan has long used her platform to promote environmental sustainability
Another judge is Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, an environmental activist from Chad. She said: “There are more than 500 million indigenous peoples around the world, living in the forests, savannahs, deserts, glaciers, mountains and islands.
“Our unique traditional knowledge can bring concrete solutions to restore our planet, if our peoples are recognised and our rights respected. We need action and we need it right now. We can’t wait any longer and when I saw the Prize, I’m like yes, that’s exactly the right thing we need to do.”
The other judges are Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief responsible for the Paris agreement on climate change; Indra Nooyi, the former chairman of PepsiCo; and Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the economist and international development expert from Nigeria.
Athletes, activists and artists united
Shakira Ripoll, 43, a singer, songwriter, producer, dancer and actress, has sold more than 75 million records. In 1997 she founded the Pies Descalzos Foundation — the Barefoot Foundation — a charity that runs schools for poor children in Colombia. Since then she has campaigned extensively for children, education and social justice. The World Literacy Foundation awarded her the 2020 Global Literacy Award for “her significant contribution to the improvement of literacy for disadvantaged children around the world”.
The only Australian to have won two acting Oscars — for her performances in The Aviator and Blue Jasmine — Blanchett, 51, is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees who has spoken about feminism and campaigned on conservation issues. In the recent TV series Mrs America she played an activist of a different sort: Phyllis Schlafly, the Republican who played a key role in defeating the Equal Rights Amendment in the US in the 1970s.
One of China’s best known athletes, Yao Ming, 40, played basketball for the Shanghai Sharks and, in the US, the Houston Rockets. At the time of his final season in 2011 the 7ft 6in player was the tallest in the National Basketball Association. He has helped to raise millions for charity, and has campaigned for elephant and rhinoceros conservation, filming a number of public service announcements for the Say No campaign with African Wildlife Foundation and Wild Aid.
Alves, 37, is the most decorated player in the history of football with 41 trophies. He is the captain of Brazil and spent 17 years playing for some of Europe’s biggest clubs. Last summer he led Brazil to victory in the Copa America. In 2014, while playing as a defender for Barcelona, he took a stand against racist abuse when he ate a banana that had been thrown at him from the stands. He has campaigned for protection of the Amazon rainforest, lobbying Michel Temer when he was president.
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim
Ibrahim, 35, an environmental activist working on behalf of her people, the Mbororo in Chad, is the founder of the Association of Peul Women and Indigenous Peoples of Chad, a community-based organisation that promotes the rights of girls and women, and environmental protection.
Her campaigning on climate change was prompted by her own experience, seeing the effects of Lake Chad drying up. The lake, which is a tenth the size it was in the 1960s, is crucial for the survival of the Mbororo and their animals. In 2019 she became one of the 17 people to be appointed advocates of sustainable development goals by the United Nations.
The second richest man in China, worth £37 billion according to Forbes, Ma, 56, is the cofounder of the technology giant Alibaba. Hugely influential as well as rich — his accolades include being rated one of the world’s best CEOs, one of Forbes Asia’s Heroes of Philanthropy and one of the world’s most influential people by Time magazine — he stepped down as executive chairman in 2019 to focus on philanthropy. He has urged China to reduce its reliance on manufacturing, devoted a portion of Alibaba’s profits to environmental causes, and has taken on the shark fishing industry.