Twelve year old Severn Suzuki speaking at the UN Earth Summit (1992)

I got an email from someone with a link to a youtube film, a film of a twelve year young girl giving a speech at the UN Earth Summit that took place in Rio de Janeiro 1992.  During the first seconds of the film I didn’t quite understand what was going on – What is that child doing there? – I thought, but I quickly realized, that what I was seeing was something really amazing: a twelve year old child telling to the world that enough is enough, telling to the world leaders to stop destroying the fauna and flora, to stop polluting the air, the ocean and the soil, to end the poverty and social injustices, to stop killing our earth…

This was sixteen years, today Severn Suzuki is is an important environmental activist, was a member of Kofi Annan‘s Special Advisory Panel in the past and initiated different projects, such as the Internet-based  project called “The Skyfish Project”.

I encourage everyone to watch this video, may it serve as an inspiration for us all. (The transcript can be found below.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

WIKIPEDIAAbout Severn Cullis-Suzuki @ Wikipedia
Some interviews with Severn Cullis-Suzuki can be found here, here and here.

Severn’s speech transcript:

Hello, I’m Severn Suzuki speaking for E.C.O. – The Environmental Children’s Organisation.

We are a group of twelve and thirteen-year-olds from Canada trying to make a difference:
Vanessa Suttie, Morgan Geisler, Michelle Quigg and me. We raised all the money ourselves to come six thousand miles to tell you adults you must change your ways. Coming 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. We cannot afford to be not heard.

I am afraid to go out in the sun now because of the holes in the 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 with my dad until just a few years ago we found the fish full of cancers. And now we hear about animals and plants going exinct every day — vanishing forever.

In my life, I have dreamt of seeing the great herds of wild animals, jungles and rainforests full of birds and butterfilies, but now I wonder if they will even exist for my children to see.

Did you have to worry about these little things when you were my age?

All this is happening before our eyes and yet we act as if we have all the time we want and all the solutions. I’m only a child and I don’t have all the solutions, but I want you to realise, neither do you!

* You don’t know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer.
* You don’t know how to bring salmon back up a dead stream.
* You don’t know how to bring back an animal now extinct.
* And you can’t bring back forests that once grew where there is now desert.

If you don’t know how to fix it, please stop breaking it!

Here, you may be delegates of your governments, business people, organisers, reporters or poiticians – but really you are mothers and fathers, brothers and sister, aunts and uncles – and all of you are somebody’s child.

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 we all share the same air, water and soil — 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 to tell the world how I feel.

In my country, we make so much waste, we buy and throw away, buy and throw away, and yet northern countries will not share with the needy. Even when we have more than enough, we are afraid to lose some of our wealth, afraid to share.

In Canada, we live the privileged life, with plenty of food, water and shelter — we have watches, bicycles, computers and television sets.

Two days ago here in Brazil, we were shocked when we spent some time with some children living on the streets. And this is what one child told us: “I wish I was rich and if I were, I would give all the street children food, clothes, medicine, shelter and love and affection.”

If a child on the street who has nothing, is willing to share, why are we who have everyting still so greedy?

I can’t stop thinking that these children are my age, that it makes a tremendous difference where you are born, that I could be one of those children living in the Favellas of Rio; I could be a child starving in Somalia; a victim of war in the Middle East or a beggar in India.

I’m only a child yet I know if all the money spent on war was spent on ending poverty and finding environmental answers, what a wonderful place this earth would be!

At school, even in kindergarten, you teach us to behave in the world. You teach us:

* not to 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 world we will grow up in. Parents should be able to comfort their children by saying “everyting’s going to be alright” , “we’re doing the best we can” and “it’s not the end of the world”.

But I don’t think you can say that to us anymore. Are we even on your list of priorities? My father 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. I challenge you, please make your actions reflect your words. Thank you for listening.

36 Responses to “Twelve year old Severn Suzuki speaking at the UN Earth Summit (1992)”

  1. wow!!!!!such a meaningful and fabulous speech!!!!!i loved it…i think this should be published and u know it might make a difference!!!

  2. An excellent speech by a school child, being an environmental education teacher i have used this speech in my classroom as a teaching aid for the students to reflect on the current environmental issues.
    Thanks Severn Suzuki!

  3. it’s a damn shame when a young girl who is learning has to re- teach adults on how to act as adults and have a soul!!!!!

  4. Ridwan Fadlika Says:

    I am Indonesian. I can’t speak English, but I understand what Severn Suzuki said. “Saya sangat mengapresiasi isi pidato itu, dan saya gunakan sebagai bahan buletin untuk menyadarkan para teman seusia saya untuk bangkit layaknya Severn. Kita jangan tergantung pada orang dewasa. Saya, seorang yang baru berusia 14 tahun, mengaku kita semualah yang harus bergerak. dan kepada seluruh orang dewasa di seluruh dunia, jangan buat masa depan kami HANCUR!”, that’s my speech in Indonesian Language. Thanks Severn Suzuki, May Alloh Subhanahu Wataala give you the “hidayah”

  5. Naim Ansari Says:

    It is wonderful to see & listen a child of 12 year old has given such a meaningful, touching to heart and also a beautiful speech.

  6. A child and yet so very inspirational. You made me cry Severn! The world needs compassion, sharing, understanding, love, people with HEARTS like you my dear.
    Our hearts are dead and we are killing the most wonderful gift of God to us. Let’s hold hands, let’s put our differences aside, let’s quit the fight for greed. Let’s do something good like Severn.
    It’s is not good enough to say “what a wonderful speech” let’s do something about it and lets’ start from our own homes because we are all guilty of it!
    Dear Severn, please carry on with your wonderful work. I have started making a different and hope everyone joins us!

  7. A great speech, very inspiring I’m left speechless too ….

  8. mona trivedi Says:

    it is wonderful to see & listen a child of 12 year old has given such a meaningful, touching to heart and also a beautiful speech. You made me cry.
    it was very lovable,fabulous and interesting speech.
    its really really great severn .

  9. mona trivedi Says:

    u rock

  10. mona trivedi Says:

    greattttttttttttt speech
    whatever u have said is exactly correct.
    it touched my heart

  11. mona trivedi Says:

    i loved it very very very ——– ——– ——— ———————————————————— —- much

  12. I’ve learnt about Severn Suzuki and her amazing speech at Earth Summit 1992 in Hot, flat, crowded world book. I’ve listened to her speech several times yet never have I found it less moving and less inspirational.
    I imagine some people may say a 12-year-old child only had childish ideas, knew nothing about economics, politics and hard-work. For me, those are really bad excuses as nature exists independently long before such things were created by human. I wish (only wish) we could think and act like a child who only needs to know either right or wrong, either black or white.
    Some sentences in Severn’s speech has moved me a lot. They are “I’m only a child and I don’t have all the solutions, but I want you to realise, neither do you!”, and “even when we have more than enough, we are afraid to lose some of our wealth, we are afraid to share”. And the most impressive one is “You are what you do, not what you say”. I’ve taken it as a guide for my life.

  13. Benjamin Franklin Says:

    she is twelve, and what is this

  14. Laltlanhlua Zathang Says:

    I have been listening Severn’s speech for quite a number of times. Every time i listen it moved me towards environment. What move me more is sharing our resources for others who do not have.
    Somebody might thinks that the speech was fabricated by thinking that 12 yrs old will not have the capacity of such speech. Even if it was, i still relished on the speech.
    I am workin in conservation for sometime, this speech is an inspiration even after 18 years.

  15. well , i’m not very good in english , i’m indonesian but i’m really interest with ur speech. And i realize , that i’m only a little part of the world. And i love ur speech , i hope we have better future.

  16. to tell u guys the truth……………………. i loved it it was touching and meaing full but maybe sometime you might wanna fix it because u have to many mistakes but oher than that u did an amazing job lol

  17. I have been teaches this not really long time ago
    when the first time at class…my teacher just gave me the reading of the speech by Severn.
    at that time me only me that cry at my class
    I cry..but I wanted to stop that, but I can’t..because your speech was very IMPOSSIBLE for U that only 12-years old can make that a very good speech
    that can touched some one :)

  18. Louis Sideras Senior Says:

    What a speech from a 12 year old. Very strong & inspiring. and from someone who’s not poor. It made me cry. please send this speech to everybody you know around the world. make a petition in the hope the politicians will listen & do something.

  19. Really wonderful Serven .You have played your role perfectly in making the nations realize what they are upto .The speech makes everyone feel right from heart but not just thinking with mind .Bold enough to show their faults and inspiring.Go Ahead !! Stop not ! Wish U All The Very Best and God Bless U.

  20. Dardu Mihai Says:

    Extremely interesting post, she is an example to us all

  21. Severn Cullis -Suzuki.
    Your Parents must be so proud of you !You were born a speaker with no cowardice.It was amazing to listen to what you told our greedy presidents and those war mongers that it’s time to stop.Am sure the audience was moved by your speech.Were we to learn,that speech could have been a lesson but 19 yrs ago,little has been learned,wars,pollution,poverty,disease ,selfishness ,greed and hunger remain the order of the day.Go on with your struggle to make the world a better place. I love you and be blessed;

  22. a big salute to Severn……….luv ya 4 giving dis meaningful, excellent,emotional and fabulous speech…….it rlly touched my heart

  23. Prajeesh Prabhakaran Says:

    A Very strong and direct speech. A very inspiring one. The best quote, ” You are what you do and not what you say”

  24. Hey da boyssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss,
    the purpose of this speech is to persuade the politicians of today to look after the world for future generations, severn uses clear english persuasive language such as repetition eotive language, rhetorical questions aswell as many statements and pleas.
    audience is jesusssss lover of my soul jesus i wil never let you goooooo

  25. very very godd and very touching speech


  27. This is the need of the hour now. Everyone should start from within and around to stop spoiling the nature, ecosystem.

  28. […] years ago at the first Earth Summit in Rio, Severn Suzuki a twelve year old girl, made an impassioned plea at the conference. She had come to Rio with the […]

  29. nice i and my friends doing a roleplay in it

  30. as others say to this comment, im not a very clever in english, im a filipino.. first time i watch this video is when im in a leadership training ni our local area here in philippines i was very amaz on how, and why you did it in such a young age .. even thou im not born on 1992
    but dont give up!!!
    as our national hero in the philippines says that “ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan” in english THE CHILDREN ARE THE HOPE OF OUR NATION

  31. […] years ago at the first Earth Summit in Rio, Severn Suzuki a twelve year old girl, made an impassioned plea at the conference. She had come to Rio with the […]

  32. hi i am prakash, profession as a teacher , your speaks in un earth summit are created as a class 10 subject lesson. so i come to know about i and all our students want to be friend with y.

  33. wah itisvery goodand inspiring us. we loved to listen to it. we congratulate her.

  34. we children from vi etechno from narayana school were inspired lot thanks for your wonderful speech ……………hats off …………..amazing from narayana madanapalle branch

  35. It’s a wonderful and a meaningful speech that give us so many messages to keep our environment and our earth ..

  36. Excellent points highlighted in the article. I just shared it on my FB profile. Keep up the good work. World is better with bloggers like you.

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