Thursday, January 14, 2010



“Child is the Father of Man”

"My heart leaps up when I behold

A Rainbow in the sky:

So was it when my life began;

So is it now I am a man;

So be it when I shall grow old,

Or let me die!

The Child is father of the man;

And I wish my days to be

Bound each to each by natural piety." - William Wordsworth

Raised in Vancouver and Toronto, Severn Cullies-Suzuki has been camping and hiking all her life. When she was 9, she started the Environmental Children's Organization (ECO), a small group of children committed to learning and teaching other kids about environmental issues. They were successful in many projects before 1992, when they raised enough money to go to the United Nation's Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Their aim was to remind the decision-makers of who their actions or inactions would ultimately affect. The goal was reached when 12 yr old Severn closed a Plenary Session with a stupendously commanding speech that received a standing ovation and stupefied the entire world for about half an hour.

And if you’d like to see for yourself how a 12-year-old made world leaders take notice, watch Severn’s speech… Please, do take just about 10 odd minutes of your time to listen to this unforgettable epic of a speech, NOW…

Today’s young people, my dear friends, have a lot at stake in worldwide climate change negotiations. After all, they’ll inherit either a bleak future if we don’t take action or a happy & secured planet if we seize the opportunity to develop clean-energy solutions and do whatever it takes to remedy the ever burgeoning threat of global-warming and environmental degradation.

To stress the importance of decisions made by today’s leaders for our youth, the United Nations recently recruited young people from around the world to speak at climate talks in New York in September, 2009.

I providentially hunted down a recent interview of the blessed young girl who stunned delegates with her passionate speech at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, by Andrew C. Revkin of The New York Times. That young person was David Suzuki and Tara Cullis’s daughter, Severn, who now has a master’s degree in ethno-ecology and lives with her husband and brand new baby on Haida Gwaii.

The Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro resulted in the first climate treaty, the Framework Convention on Climate Change. The effort under way at the United Nations is intended to breathe life into that pact with a fresh addendum to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, with all of its limitations and flaws.

Mr. Revkin spoke to Severn about her experience 17 years ago and about the lessons for young people today. Here are some excerpts from the interview for you to fathom Ms. Suzuki’s reflections on the value and limits of having youth weigh in on such deliberations…

“Q. Your speech was powerful and seemed powerfully-received. What was your feeling right afterward and for the next few days or months?

A. After giving the speech I remember having this intense sense of completion. I knew we’d been able to achieve our dream and mission of speaking to the world leaders at the U.N. At that time there was no formal means for children to have a voice at the summit, so we’d slipped in between the cracks, worked hard and used any contacts we had to get five minutes at the plenary. I knew we’d shocked the plenary audience with what we had to say. After two weeks of being on the conference grounds, meeting street children, learning from people from all over the world about environmental issues, me and my friends felt angry, and justified in our anger at our world leaders. I remember feeling very calm, very confident. I hadn’t pulled any punches. I knew that we had achieved what we’d set out to do, and had played our part in the huge effort of our community of friends, family and activists to execute our plan.”

“Q. The framework convention on climate change was finalized there. Did that feel exciting, triumphant? As you’ve grown up and watched the world stick pretty much with business as usual, what’s been your feeling?

A. I remember at Rio Centro there was definitely a buzz, and the sense that important things were happening. But I had the righteous sense that the adults were making all kinds of back door deals, and were making it far more complicated to justify inaction. That was the first summit that I’d attended. In the years after I attended several more international summits, and this sense has only increased. Of course, I’ve grown up since then, and I know that making change in the world isn’t as simple as just speaking to the world leaders. I don’t hold my breath waiting for them to save the world.”

“I feel very proud of the fact that now there is a formal means for youth to have a voice; I like to think that ECO made a contribution towards that by speaking at the Earth Summit in ‘92. Youth are now recognized as having a stake in the decisions. However, sometimes I worry that by incorporating them into the system, the youth voice might be lost in the complexities of the U.N.”

“And they are treated as just another stakeholder — given only a few minutes to speak at the end of a conference — yet youth make up half of the world’s population! They are the ones with everything at stake. But then seeing the youth demonstrations at the COP gatherings, and hearing their powerful speeches, I am proud that they are there, to speak truth to power.”

“The shocking thing about the speech I gave at Rio is that the exact same speech could be given today. I think that the power of youth remains to cut through the complexities of the negotiations and remind the decision makers of really what it’s all about — the whole reason why the world must get together.”

“Remind these politicians of their own children! Even today, though many would say that we have gone backwards since the Rio Earth Summit, I still have to believe that it is the love people have for their children that will steer the world in the right direction.”

Ms. Suzuki, with the passage of 18 years, has now moved from childhood to motherhood. She recently completed a master’s degree in ethno-ecology and lives on Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands) in British Columbia with her husband and their 2-month-old baby.

Read the Full Interview


  1. Youth do have an important role....but are they empowered enough..and are our elders serious enough to understand the implications of climate change..
    If you wish go thru this post of mine

  2. Excellent post. I think everyone has a role to play here and they should be. It should be not limited just to the youth or children.

  3. I came across this speech a few months back in Facebook and as I listened to it, I had goosebumps! It felt so genuine and thinking that Ms.Suzuki was speaking about it 18yrs before and that it still holds true is quite a shame. Hope there are some serious steps taken towards the betterment of our environment. I am sure that each one of us can contribute through simple and easy means like not wasting water and electricity. Switching off the lighs when not in use. By planting a tree whereever and whenever possible.

    Really nice post!

  4. Nice read :).I agree with Aswani that everyone has to play there part here.It should no be expected that only youth and children can do.Each and everyone should contribute in their own way.

  5. Wow! Inspirational, to say the least!

  6. @Tarun Mitra True! That's the reason why Severn said, “I feel very proud of the fact that now there is a formal means for youth to have a voice; I like to think that ECO made a contribution towards that by speaking at the Earth Summit in ‘92. YOUTH ARE NOW RECOGNIZED as having a stake in the decisions. However, sometimes I worry that by incorporating them into the system, the youth voice might be lost in the complexities of the U.N.”

    And your concern about the need for the elders to understand the implications does hold water in the Indian context, wherein the youth are still to be taken that seriously.

    BUT I personally feel that there are ways & means to overcome that too and the secret lies in the bottom-line and that is - the immensely inspiring gumption coupled with incredible degree of maturity that Ms. Suzuki had exhibited 18 years ago, for the rest of the world's denizens to follow and duly act on.

    Thanks for throwing in your valuable thoughts on the issue, dear Tarun! And yes, I would love to visit your blog to read the post. Cheers! :)

  7. @ASWANI Right on, dear Ashwani! An immediate collective and unconditional endeavour in this direction is the need of the hour. Thanks for your appreciation! :)

    @deepazartz Thank you, dear Deepa! You're so right! Contributing in such little forms and ways is the best idea for individuals, as this would gradually lead to mass awareness followed by action, at length.

    @BK Chowla I agree, too, Mr. Chowla! Thanks! :)

    @Shabnam Sultan Hey, great to see you, here, dear Shabbo! :))) Yes, all have to contribute, indeed! Thank you for dropping by and posting your nice comment. You've made my day! Cheers! :)

    @Magali Simply loved your comment, which though concise, is in fact, pretty spontaneous! I myself had reacted just the way you've done, the first time I had listened to this speech. Thank you! :)

  8. nice blog sir

  9. @MAHA Thank you so much, dear Maha, for dropping by and for your appreciation! See you back, here, soon. :)

  10. Dear Sir,Your blog is wonderful. You seem to be with great thoughts and ideas, I would like to get your opinion on WORLD ENDS ON 2012..10 REASONS, in this post,

  11. Great video and great post too. Excellent blog.

  12. @fengshuischool Thanks a bushel for your generous praise, indeed, my friend! I'm flattered! I've already posted my opinion on your good post. Plz check out and respond to it. Thanks again! Much warmth! :)

    @ladychef Thank you very much for your kind appreciation! Cheers! :)