The Girl Who Silenced The World For Five Minutes
Written by Sanjana Sunilkumar
Close your eyes. Picture this. A young girl, probably your age or even younger, walks through the dais of the UN summit and gives a fiery speech on climate change. The world leaders go spellbound. The spectators feel guilty. Every person is inspired by this courageous girl who speaks with such strength and power sinking the world in an emotional turmoil. Can you guess whom I am talking about? Greta Thunberg? Oops, then you’re quite mistaken.
Twenty six years before Thunberg entered the UN summit, a little girl who was only twelve, much younger than Thunberg, gave out an ardent speech setting the whole world ablaze. Yes, it all happened in the year of 1992. Severn Cullis Suzuki, a twelve year old Canadian girl, slammed the world leaders at the UN climate summit demanding them to take immediate action on the climate crisis which is still continuing right now. She spoke about many more issues which even Thunberg hadn’t touched. Since Severn’s speech, the world has come a long way, but the environmental crisis has only gotten worse.
Severn has been speaking up about environmental issues since she was a child. At the age of nine, she started the Environmental Children’s Organization through which she was able to collect funds to visit the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. At Rio De Janeiro, she delivered a powerful, moving speech that garnered worldwide attention. However, her hard-hitting words were only received with applause and not any concrete action. Severn didn’t have the power of social media in her hands like Thunberg and thus was mostly ignored by world leaders.
As a teenager, Severn was appointed to join the Earth Charter Commission. This Charter has gained traction in countries around the world, and Severn still remains a council member of Earth Charter International today.
Her strong words, “You don’t know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer. You don’t know how to bring salmons 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! We have come 5000 miles to tell you adults that you have to change your ways,” had caused her to be remembered as the ‘girl who silenced the world for five minutes.’ Click here to watch her speaking in the summit : https://youtu.be/G6OP-lPF-Mo
Growing up, Severn continued her journey as an environmental activist. Being the brain behind several projects and campaigns, Severn never stopped spreading awareness. In the year 2000, along with five others, she carried out 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 now works on endangered languages and native communities. Recently, she said on instagram about the current Thunberg era of climate action, “My heart is so full… The youth are showing the world how to take action. Demanding transformation now. Human change, not climate change.”
About Thunberg, she had said, “She’s powerful. She’s shaming these leaders.”
Voices like Severn and 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.
Severn has now settled in Colombia with her husband and two sons, but settling down doesn’t mean that she is done with everything and just chilling out, for she assures that her passion and the will to change, shall never leave her mind. She firmly believes that the world will change. And that change—she sees it in us. Then come on people, let’s make it happen!