The 12 Year Old Girl Who Silenced the World for 6 Minutes
As daughter of famed Canadian geneticist and environmental activist Dr. David Suzuki, who has been awarded the Shining World Leadership Award by Master , for his enthusiasm and good work towards protecting the environment (please see News #180), Severn Cullis-Suzuki is one of the world’s most remarkable youth environmental activists. She has been promoting environmental protection by giving speeches, hosting TV shows and writing since she was little, urging people to define their values, act with the future in mind, and take individual responsibility.
In 1992, when she was 12 years old, she gave a speech at the Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, and received a standing ovation from the delegates; some of them even shed tears while listening.
Here are some excerpts of her speech addressed to the Plenary Session, Earth Summit, Rio Centro, Brazil, 1992: (The video of her complete speech is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJJGuIZVfLM
“Hello, I’m Severn Suzuki speaking for E.C.O. – The Environmental Children’s Organization. We are a group of twelve and thirteen-year-olds trying to make a difference: Vanessa Suttie, Morgan Geisler, Michelle Quigg and me. We’ve raised all the money to come here ourselves, to come five thousand miles to tell you adults you must change your ways. Coming up here today, I have no hidden agenda. I am fighting for my future. Losing my future is not like losing an election or a few points on the stock market. I am here to speak for all generations to come. I am here to speak on behalf of the starving children around the world whose cries go unheard. I am here to speak for the countless animals dying across this planet because they have nowhere left to go. I am afraid to go out in the sun now because of the holes in our ozone. I am afraid to breathe the air because I don’t know what chemicals are in it. I used to go fishing in Vancouver, my home, with my dad until just a few years ago we found the fish full of cancers. And now we hear of animals and plants going extinct every day – vanishing forever.”
“I’m only a child yet I know we are all part of a family, five billion strong, in fact, 30 million species strong, and borders and governments will never change that. I’m only a child yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal. In my anger, I am not blind, and in my fear, I am not afraid of telling the world how I feel.”
“I’m only a child yet I know if all the money spent on war was spent on finding environmental answers, ending poverty and finding treatises, what a wonderful place this earth would be!”
“You are deciding what kind of world we are growing up in. Parents should be able to comfort their children by saying “everything’s going to be alright”, “it’s not the end of the world” and “we’re doing the best we can”. But I don’t think you can say that to us anymore. Are we even on your list of priorities? My dad always says, “You are what you do, not what you say.” Well, what you do makes me cry at night. You grownups say you love us, but I challenge you, please make your actions reflect your words. Thank you.”
One year later, she received the United Nations Environment Program’s Global 500 Roll of Honor Award at a ceremony in Beijing, China.
In 2002, she hosted several TV shows, including Suzuki’s Nature Quest on the Discovery Channel. She and her friends also brought a pledge called the Recognition of Responsibility to the 2002 United Nations World Summit in Johannesburg to show that North Americans cared about the environment.
Severn Suzuki’s commitment to protecting our beautiful planet, not only for ourselves but for future generations, is both touching and inspiring. Her message is all the more relevant these days, when individual awareness, responsibility and action are required from each of us. Thank you, Severn, for your wonderful example to children and adults alike.