Children speak out on the climate crisis

June 28, 2012

Twenty years ago a 12-year-old girl named Severn Suzuki addressed delegates in Rio de Janeiro during the summit’s plenary session on behalf of the world youth. In the following segment DemocracyNow! revisits that passionate, prescient, and powerful and speech that “silenced the world for 6 minutes”. 

Some quotes from the speech:

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.

At school, even in kindergarten, you teach us how to behave in the world. You teach us to not fight with others, to work things out, to respect others, to clean up our mess, not to hurt other creatures, to share, not be greedy. Then why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do?
Do not forget why you’re attending these conferences, who you’re doing this for: we are your own children. You are deciding what kind of a world we are growing up in. Parents should be able to comfort their children by saying, “Everything’s going to be all right,” “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 grown-ups say you love us. But I challenge you, please, make your actions reflect your words.


Twenty years later, 17-year-old Brittany Trilford from Wellington, New Zealand, addressed more than one hundred heads of state at the plenary session of the Rio+20 U.N. Earth Summit. She opened the conference with remarks similar to those of Anjali Appadurai at the UNCCC in 2011, reminding the plenary that she is speaking on behalf of ever single child (i.e. 50% of this planet’s population). This powerful and impressive speech is nevertheless sad to watch as it reminds the viewer of the speech of Severn Cullis-Suzuki 20 years earlier and the fact that nothing has changed in the interim, except for the fact that the climate crisis has gotten worse.

Some quotes from the speech:

Today, in this moment, I’m all children, your children, the world’s three billion children. Think of me as half the world.

Are you here to save face? Or are you here to save us?

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