Severn Suzuki’s Speech | Summary and Analysis
Severn Suzuki’s speech delivered at the 1992 Rio Summit is a voice of a generation, a voice of the future, urging the present to remedy the environmental damages inflicted by its past and present actions. This moving speech, delivered by the Canadian girl when she was all of 12 years old, urges humanity to look closer and think deeply about humanity’s relationship with Nature, with the goal of acting correctly to remedy the damage that has been done. Dealing with the themes of environmental degradation, generational responsibility, sustainable growth and the need for ecological conservation, this is speech, delivered at the 1992 Rio Summit is a historical event in environmental advocacy, considering the fact that the findings of this summit played a major role in the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol which focused on stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere This speech is also a milestone in the representation of the voice of a significant portion of humanity, which despite belonging to the crucial stakeholders in the well-being of humanity, often finds itself unheard or silenced- the voice of the children
Speaking on behalf of youth across the world, Suzuki implores the “adults” – the “important” people who’ve gathered to decide the future of Earth – to recognize the adverse effects of their activities on the environment and urges them to mend their ways immediately, lest the future generation shall have to face dire consequences. She makes her intentions clear, jumping straight to the point at the very beginning of her address, and states that she’s there for the sole purpose of fighting for the future of the generations to come. Her fight was on behalf of all those children and animals who were suffering as a result of our negligence towards our environment.
Emphasizing the seriousness of this issue, she speaks about the various ways in which the effects of environmental degradation penetrate every aspect of our lives– from the air we breathe to the biodiversity surrounding us. On one hand the extensive emission of poisonous gases have led to holes in the ozone layer that protects us from the harmful rays of the sun and has also polluted the air. On the other
hand, our gross neglect has led to the extinction of many species of plants and animals, with some almost on the verge of vanishing and many others being afflicted with serious conditions like cancer. If no action is taken to stop all this, there might come a day in the future when our successors will no longer be able to see the beautiful flora and fauna of our planet.
Suzuki goes on to say that these issues were not a cause of concern for the elders because they were not present in their childhood. But for children her age, this matter requires immediate redressal because it is their future that is at stake. Being a child, she doesn’t have the solutions but so is the case with the adults too; they are as clueless as the children when it comes to devising a solution to the problem of environmental degradation. Thus, showing the mirror to all the adults, Suzuki makes a firm request to them, asking them to be careful in their actions. According to her, if the elders of the society do not have a remedy to the problem, the least they can do is to not contribute to it further.
All the people across the world, the children as well the elders, are a part of one big family and thus the problem that we are facing is not an individual problem, but rather it is the problem of the entire world. Here, we see the concept of Global Commons being articulated by this twelve-year-old before it was fashionable. Only when we work together, in unison, will we be able to tackle it. It is neither the responsibility of the government nor of any particular nation; we are all equally a part of it and therefore we should act as one single unit as we try to undo the damage already done. We are all a part of the problem and we can all become a part of the solution as well.
Even as she says this, Severn Suzuki assures the audience that all of this was not said in a fit of rage or upon being blinded by fear. She truly feels what she is expressing. She sees a stark difference across the world– at one side there were prosperous nations like hers where wastage is widespread and the other underprivileged countries where children struggle for even the bare necessities of life. What strikes her about this is that despite belonging to the privileged category, the wealthy are not ready to part with their wealth while the impoverished, even though they possessed nothing, dream of sharing their bounty with all. The selflessness of these children as contrasted with the greed of the adults who had everything, has greatly moved her. This understanding of the disparity that prevails across nations made her realize the futility of war and she comes to the conclusion that all the money that is spent on war finds a much better use in finding solutions for the problems of poverty and environmental degradation and should in fact be used towards creating treaties that would bring peace and love among all. If this is done, the earth shall surely become a beautiful place.
Addressing the adults once again, she says that as children, they are often told to behave properly, share with others, work out solutions instead of fighting, respect everyone and to try and fix any damage that may have caused. However, children seldom see any of this being put to practice by the adults. Suzuki reminds the audience that the purpose of conferences like the one they are in is to secure a better future for the children. Contrary to this, these elders had no assurance and words of comfort to give their children. In fact, it seems that the future of children was not even in their list of priorities, leave alone the main objective of such conferences.
With this, Severn Suzuki concludes her speech and makes an earnest request to all the adults to practice what that they preach as when that happens, the world will surely become a much better place for these children and for those yet to come. Instead of making false declarations of their love and concern for their successors, the current generation should make conscious efforts to leave behind a happy world for their children.
By using such simple, yet powerful and thought-provoking arguments, Severn manages to make a lasting impact on not just those who were present there, but to all the people across the world. Her speech continues to inspire others who are working towards this goal of sustainability, reducing disparities and conserving our natural environment.
About Severn Suzuki
Severn Cullis Suzuki, popularly known as “The Girl Who Silenced the World for 5 Minutes”, is a Canadian author, television host, speaker and an active environmentalist. Since a very young age, she has been working relentlessly towards the conservation of the environment and has delivered numerous speeches and talks across the world to increase awareness about the environmental issues among the people, urging them to develop a proactive approach towards saving the future of our planet. At the tender age of 9, she founded the Environmental Children’s Organisation (ECO) with her friends. This children’s group was wholly dedicated towards educating their peers as well as themselves about the environment and the impact our actions have on it. In 1992, she, along with her fellow members, raised funding to attend the Rio Earth Summit where she delivered a powerful speech highlighting the prevailing environmental issues and stressing upon the need to take immediate and effective action to combat them.