The Girl Who Silenced the UN For 5 Minutes

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Editor's note: The following is the transcript of the speech that Severn Suzuki gave to the Plenary Session at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio Centro, Brazil. Severn was twelve years old. SASS feels there is no better example of a young person standing up and speaking on behalf of something in which they truly believe, for the betterment of themselves and the world around them.

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

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M.a.d.d.o.g.'s picture

Little girls letter to the u.n.

That sounds like moses talking to pharoah by god our father!
Tom Carroll's picture

Heal the world

I still get shivers down my spine when I read this. She's right and people will never stop.

Chelsey's picture

I'm am an 18 year old girl

I'm am an 18 year old girl from Hawkinsville, GA and it amazes me that a little girl could have the courage to stand in front of millions and state the truth that everyone else is trying to avoid. She's right, politicians argue over things that are not so important and do not take the time to even so much as think of people living in poverty. God doesn't want us to live this way, he wants us to take care of each other. Regardless of what race or class you are, we are all brothers and sisters in his eyes and I know its hard to turn away from temptations and live your life right with all the sin in today's society but we all need to learn to stand together. I am considered middle class, my parents and I would do anything in our power to help people but its hard to give money to others when the government is constantly raising taxes and taking money from us. If we would quit borrowing money from China and start making things in the United States, it would create more jobs and solve the unemployment problem. For the United States to help any other country, we need to fix our country first!

Anonymous's picture

I'm also 18 year old girl

I'm also 18 year old girl studying our environment and when I watch this video I couldn't stop myself from crying because everything she said is true.That street children are not given attention by higher people especially our own government.And I couldn't agree more when she said the line,"Why are we who has everything still so greedy?"...Suzuki's so brave to let the world hear her...Because in our place one could be imprisoned or worst die....

Anonymous's picture

Beyond Redemption

What more can one say that she has not said already? Our behaviour is disgraceful. It has been harped on about for centuries and too often these people are silenced or ridiculed. Well, very soon we will not have a world to speak of but a barren desert. It is going to take a complete annihilation of the world as-we-know-it, to effect a dramatic change for a new beginning. Hopefully, it will be minus the current governing bodies, arbiters, and money hungry conglomerates who drive this global economy. Albert Einstein said some thing to the effect of: ''I don't know what we will fight the Third World War with, but I know what we will fight the Fourth World War with,...''. When they asked him with anticipation what he meant, he said,''Sticks and stones''.

Anonymous's picture

some of the words here are

some of the words here are misspelled...but the speech is extremely awesome, that's what we all need, we need to change!!!

Anonymous's picture

What the Man said

As Slim Dusty's gospel song goes song goes:

Why do they weep down in Jordan
Why do they cry in Galilee
Why are there so many broken hearted
And why do people long to be free.

Cause when the Man said, This way to heaven
Fools knew a better way to go.
When the Man said, This way to heaven
This mad crazy world said, No.

And why are brothers fighting it with brothers
Why aren't guns and battle ships a toy
Why are little babies cold and hungry
And why are nations building to destroy

Why are there so many brokenhearted
And why are grey haired mothers bowed with care.
Why is there so little understanding
And why is revolution everywhere.

hannah's picture


Its just amazing how some kids are these days. no one cares anymore about how our world turns out . And thats really sad . I mean don't you want your kids and your childrens kids to live in a amazing place like we use to have .

Anonymous's picture


yeet, pablo was here

Anonymous's picture

love stories

awesome content thanks for sharing

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