Almost 26 years before Greta Thunberg delivered her moving speech, there was another young girl who demanded that the world takes action to stop climate change at the UN. Severn Suzuki, at the age of 12, delivered a fiery speech in front of world leaders. She didn’t speak of climate change then but touched on several issues that Thunberg too mentions today. Since Severn Suzuki’s speech in 1992, the world has come a long way, but the environmental crisis has only gotten worse.
A Young Fighter
Severn has been fighting and speaking up about environmental issues since she was a child. At the young age of nine, she started the Environmental Children’s Organisation. Through this organisation, she and her friends would help other kids learn about environmental issues. The group of children was able to collect funds to visit the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
Suzuki At Rio
Severn Suzuki visited the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio De Janeiro. There, she delivered a powerful, moving speech that would garner worldwide attention. People watch her speech even today. However, her hard-hitting words were only received with applause and not any concrete action. Suzuki, who didn’t have the power of social media in her hands like Thunberg has, and thus was mostly ignored by world leaders.
“I’m only a child and I don’t have all the solutions, but I want you to realise, neither do you!” Suzuki told everyone present at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, adding, “If you don’t know how to fix it, please stop breaking it!” – Severn Suzuki
Severn Suzuki’s strong words would cause her to be remembered as the “girl who silenced the world for five minutes.”
She said, “I am fighting for my future…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 just dug up this clip from 1992…
Severn Cullis-Suzuki's speech to the UN in 1992 on climate change sounds an awful lot like Greta Thunberg's in 2019.
I cut the two together to show just how similar the language is: pic.twitter.com/18ptTzX4M4
— Caleb Hull (I'm With the CCP Don't Ban Me) (@CalebJHull) September 26, 2019
As An Adult
As she grew up, Suzuki continued her journey as an environmental activist. She has been an activist for sustainability and intergenerational justice. She not only completed her undergraduate degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Yale but also did her Masters in Ethnoecology from the University of Victoria, British Columbia. As the mind behind several projects and campaigns, Suzuki has always continued to spread awareness. In the year 2000, she – along with five others – carried out Powershift. This was a cross-Canada cycling event to promote awareness about climate change. She has not only published several books about environmental change but also hosted television shows.
Having dedicated almost her entire life to bringing about change, Severn Suzuki now works on endangered languages and native communities.
Recently, she spoke about the current Thunberg era of climate action. Showing her support, she said, My heart is so full…The youth are showing the world how to take action. Demanding transformation now. Human change, not climate change.”
About Greta, she said, “She’s powerful. She’s shaming these leaders.”
Voices like Suzuki and Greta Thunberg remind us every day that climate change is no longer an issue we can avoid. Young people challenging governments and asking world leaders to take action is perhaps the only way to ensure a sustainable future.
Image Credit: YouTube screenshot
Prapti is an intern with SheThePeople.Tv