SPEECH TO GLOBAL FORUM IN KYOTO



APRIL 23, 1993
SEVERN CULLIS-SUZUKI


I am very honoured to be here and to be able to speak to such prominent leaders.
I've sat through 6 days of sessions of the Global Forum and have noticed two things about all the discussions I've listened to: they are VERY complicated and, I hope you'll excuse me for saying this, but to me, the decisions made didn't seem important enough.
Of course, I'm only 13 years old.
My mother once told me, children are closer to creation.
We haven't let go of our intimate connection and love of Nature with all of its puddles, tadpoles, flowers and furry creatures.
We understand when Native people say these are our brothers and sisters.
We are PART of Nature still.
I guess my life and ideas are pretty simple and straightforward, but watching you struggle to find how to change values, I wonder sometimes if adults, in their complicated work and lives forget the SIMPLE things.
The secret to changing values is to remember WHAT and WHO you were as a child.
Remember all the insects and birds, catching butterflies and looking for frogs in ponds.
Remember playing in the grass and the trees.
Remember how you loved them, lived with them, how important they were, how you couldn't imagine your world without them.
Remember your hopes? And your dreams?
Remember how you trusted grownups to make sure everything would be all right?
Remember how clearly you knew what was unfair and wrong?
Remember how clear things were? Well, that's how clear the really important things are.
You are here as leaders, representatives, delegates and sponsors, but really you are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers and all of you are someone's child.
In your heart, in your child's heart, you KNOW what values, what principles are right.
As adults, do you forget? Forget what makes you happy, thinking that "being realistic" is stocks and bonds, political compromises and making money?
What I worry is that you may be the LAST generation to have childhood memories of Nature as it always was.
I have had the chance to spend a lot of time in forests camping and canoeing, yet everywhere I've been, I see roads, burning, logging and pollution.
And I'm one of the lucky ones.
Almost all my friends who live in the city have no experiences or memories of forests or wild animals at all and are now completely disconnected from Nature.
A lot of young people are becoming more violent.
I think it's the absence and lack of contact with forests, rivers, trees and animals.
Nature is calming and healing.
But it is disappearing so rapidly, and everyday, new violence is increasing.
I turn 21 in the year 2000. I will spend all of my adult life in the 21st century.

But I will live with what you and your parents have already done and will do in this last Turnaround Decade - we will inherit what you leave us.
That's why you must work to preserve the world - for us.
To leave a liveable planet for all future children we will have to make very big changes, very fast.
Are you REALLY going to do it???
If YOU don't - who will?
I can't make sense of the way people justify the continued destruction of the Earth.
I've heard a lot of reference to the different priorities of the First World, the Second World and the Third World.
But all my life, from space satellite pictures, I've only ever seen ONE world; and because we are only one Earth, whatever happens in India, China or Brazil will affect all of us in Canada, Europe and Japan.
I don't have a job. I don't understand the complexity of money and the economy.

But I DO know that I live in an incredibly rich country, while other kids my age, who are just like me, are starving on the streets in countries like Somalia and Bangladesh.
I am willing to share and to give things up - I have plenty, but people and governments that have more than enough seem unwilling to share with the needy.
Everybody says they are all for peace and happiness, but there are billions of dollars that could go to ending poverty and reducing pollution and environmental problems, that are being spent on weapons to kill and destroy.
I've tried to help save rainforests and rivers and animals, but the argument I get is that people have to have a healthy economy FIRST.
But you can't eat money!
And you can't make a living if there are no fish, no forests, no Nature to live on.
Money can never replace our REAL necessities.
My Dad always tells me, "You are what you DO, not what you SAY", and I believe that.
Children watch you - your behaviour and actions - that's how we learn.
My friend's parents both smoke and they keep telling her "When you grow up, don't smoke". But I KNOW she will because her parents are setting the example.

You say children are important; but in Rio at the Earth Summit, I was surprised when only one country - Holland - sent children as official delegates, when it's children who had the biggest stake in the decisions made at Rio.
Adults often say to me "Yes, we've really messed up the world. But children like you are different. You are our hope. You're going to make the difference to save the world."
Does that excuse adults from acting?
How can WE be different when YOU are our role models?
You grown ups tell us how we should behave. You tell us not to fight, to clean up our mess, not to hurt other creatures, to share not be greedy.
Then you go and do the things you tell us not to do.
I've had many examples that show me that ordinary people care enough to try to make a difference.

My home of Vancouver is the peace capital of Canada.
It is officially a nuclear-free zone and each year has a huge rally attended by thousands of people.
Ever since I can remember, my parents have taken me on that march.
And in other protests against logging oldgrowth forests, and in support of native people, I find it inspiring to ACT - not just TALK.
A few years ago, my Mom was concerned about the way we were taught about Native people in our grade 4 class.
So she started a small group called Our Common Ground that was half Native and half non-Native women who gathered together information that is now being used in British Columbia schools.
I thought it was so neat that my own mom started an organization to make a difference.
So when I was 10 years old in grade 5, I started ECO - the Environmental Children's Organization - a small group of kids who wanted to make a difference.
We raised money to buy a water filter for a village of native people in Malaysia, we gave talks and slide shows at local elementary and high schools and spoke at environmental conferences for youth.
In 1991, I heard about the UNCED conference in Rio and told my parents I thought ECO should go to act as a conscience and remind the delegates that they were deciding what kind of a world WE would grow up in.
With a lot of effort, we finally raised the money for five children to go to Rio to set up a booth and distribute newspapers and pamphlets we had printed, and to give talks everywhere.
And in the end, with a lot of help from people like James Grant of UNICEF and Maurice Strong, I was able to deliver my message at a Plenary Session of the Earth Summit.
I want to tell you some of what I said to the delegates:

"Coming up here to speak, I have no hidden agenda, I am fighting for my future.
Losing a future is not like losing an election or a few points on the stock market.
I am afraid to go out in the sun now because of the holes in the ozone layer.
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 cancer.
And now we hear of animals and plants going extinct everyday - vanishing forever.
In my life I have dreamed of seeing the great herds of wild animals, jungles and rainforests full of birds and butterflies, but now I wonder if they will even exist for my children to see.
Did you have to worry about these things when you were my age?
All this is happening before our eyes and yet we act as if we have all the time in the world and all of the answers.
I'm only a child and I don't have all the answers, but I want you adults to realise, neither do you.
You don't know how to fix the holes in the ozone, you don't know how to bring back the salmon up a dead stream, you don't know how to bring back an animal now extinct, and you can't bring back the forests where there is now desert.
If you don't know how to fix it, please stop breaking it!

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 let go of some of our wealth.
In Canada, we lead the good life with plenty of food, water and shelter. We have watches, bicycles, television sets and computers - the list could go on for pages.
In Brazil, we were shocked to meet some children living on the street. This is what one of them told us:
'I wish I was rich; and if I was, 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 everything still so greedy?"

My speech was added to the thousands of voices hoping for change.
But now, almost a year later, I feel as if the Earth Summit never happened.
It was supposed to be a turnaround conference where we would actually get on with the job of saving the planet.
But now it seems as if everyone is worried about the economy and taxes and elections and no one is going to take the lead.
Here it has been encouraging to hear all the talk about the global environment - but I heard the same talk at Rio.
I'm worried that when this conference ends, so will the ideas and initiative to take action.
Because you are our models, we try to be like you, so please be the way you should be.
Sometimes I think grownups have forgotten that it's OK to be brave! It's OK to be different.
You keep telling children not to pay attention to what other kids say about us, not to be a follower.

Why are YOU afraid to lead?
What will your legacy be to us?
And when I copy you, what will I leave for the generations to come?

On behalf of all the children of the world, the future generations and our relatives the other animals and plants, I ask you - what is it that you're waiting for?

Thank you.


・・・Back To Top Page・・・