Responsibility Defies Age: A Look At Severn Cullis Suzuki’s Speech To UN At The Age Of 12

severn suzuki

Severn Cullis at 12

” 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.” – Severn

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A lot of people let their age inhibit their self-evolution.

You hear comments like “I’m too young” or “I am too old”, “It’s too late for me to do so and so now”, “when I am at so and so age I will do so and so”

Such infringing beliefs erect barriers on numerous possibilities of what can be achieved at a certain age.  If a 13 year old thinks she is only capable of doing what the average 13 year old does, it is due to the fact that society and the media have compounded such beliefs. The same goes for some adults older than 13 who believe they should have some grey hair, and probably have a stable job before they start going into more critical thinking about how to take responsibility in their lives and if possible, others.

I stumbled upon a video of Severn Cullis Suzuki at  age 12 when she made a speech to the UN. This is the first time I am seeing this video, and I was pretty amazed by her self confidence and her depth of reasoning.

This is the text of the speech for those who can’t access the video:

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 our 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.

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 extinct 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 butterflies, 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 politicians – but really you are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, 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  — 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.

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 share, we are afraid to let go of our wealth.

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 everything still so greedy?

I can’t stop thinking that these are children my own 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 how 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 “everything’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 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. I challenge you, please make your actions reflect your words. Thank you for listening

severn cullis

Severn Cullis Suzuki at 33.

Now at the age of 33, Severn Cullis is still pursuing her dream as an environmental activist, speaker, television host, author, and Humanitarian.  I like to read comments people leave behind on public posts, and while I was reading the comments on her speech I came across a very ignorant comment that stated: “So now that she is grown and is an adult, what has she done for the world?”

This comment is a reflection of the mindsets some people in our society have. We feel we need to be in some high place or our efforts have to be known by many before we have made real accomplishments. One person cannot change the world without all of us contributing to that change. This has been proven in history from examples like Mahatma Ghandi,  MalcolmX, Martin Luther King, and some other revolutionaries. As much as these revolutionaries gave great speeches and instigated great feats, if people had remained resistant none of the changes would have been made. This goes to show that we all need each other.

In her own way, she has affected people significantly, and that is her contribution in saving the world. You don’t need to go to some big institution to make a grand speech like Severn at 12 or stand before hundreds/millions of citizens of your country and make a speech about a change for revolution. Your contribution could be teaching an illiterate how to read, or giving that beggar across your street a minial job such as watering your plants so that he/she will know they are useful and have an income earning ability, Our contribution in saving the world is in the little things we do to make each other’s lives a little more comfortable.

You don’t have to wait till you’re mature(whatever age that is) before you think you’re responsible to start making significant changes. Even those little rants on social networks about how changes can be made, although they seem inconsequential to some, are tiny seeds that have the power to wake dormant minds and force them into action.

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If there is one thing I have learned, it is that as unrelated as we seem, whether we acknowledge it or not, we are connected. When you begin to understand this, you see that the action of one person could send tremors along the web to numerous people in a myriad of ways…

Hopefully, the tremors we provoke lead to positive outcomes.

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Photo Credits:
Photo of Severn at 12, Severn at 33 obtained from http://www.dw.de/rio-girl-severn-cullis-suzuki-20-years-on/a-15974444
Photo of Earth in spider web obtained from http://www.visualphotos.com/image/1×6535563/close-up_of_a_globe_in_a_spider_web

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