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The following is the transcript of the speech that Severn Suzuki gave to the Plenary Session at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio Centro, Brazil. Severn was twelve years old. SASS feels there is no better example of a young person standing up and speaking on behalf of something in which they truly believe, for the betterment of themselves and the world around them.
Hello, I’m Severn Suzuki speaking for E.C.O. – The Environmental Children’s Organisation.
We are a group of twelve and thirteen-year-olds from Canada trying to make a difference:
Vanessa Suttie, Morgan Geisler, Michelle Quigg and me. We raised all the money ourselves to come six thousand miles to tell you adults you must change your ways. Coming here today, I have no hidden agenda. I am fighting for my future.
Losing my future is not like losing an election or a few points on the stock market. 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. We cannot afford to be not heard.
I am afraid to go out in the sun now because of the holes in the ozone. 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 cancers. And now we hear about animals and plants going extinct every day — vanishing forever.
In my life, I have dreamt of seeing the great herds of wild animals, jungles and rainforests full of birds and butterfilies, but now I wonder if they will even exist for my children to see.
Did you have to worry about these little things when you were my age?
All this is happening before our eyes and yet we act as if we have all the time we want and all the solutions. I’m only a child and I don’t have all the solutions, but I want you to realise, neither do you!
* You don’t know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer.
* You don’t know how to bring salmon 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!
Here, you may be delegates of your governments, business people, organisers, reporters or poiticians – but really you are mothers and fathers, brothers and sister, aunts and uncles – and all of you are somebody’s child.
I’m only a child yet I know we are all part of a family, five billion strong, in fact, 30 million species strong and we all share the same air, water and soil — borders and governments will never change that.
I’m only a child yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal.
In my anger, I am not blind, and in my fear, I am not afraid to tell the world how I feel.
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 lose some of our wealth, afraid to share.
In Canada, we live the privileged life, with plenty of food, water and shelter — we have watches, bicycles, computers and television sets.
Two days ago here in Brazil, we were shocked when we spent some time with some children living on the streets. And this is what one child told us: “I wish I was rich and if I were, 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 everyting still so greedy?
I can’t stop thinking that these children are my age, that it makes a tremendous difference where you are born, that I could be one of those children living in the Favellas of Rio; I could be a child starving in Somalia; a victim of war in the Middle East or a beggar in India.
I’m only a child yet I know if all the money spent on war was spent on ending poverty and finding environmental answers, what a wonderful place this earth would be!
At school, even in kindergarten, you teach us to behave in the world. You teach us:
* not to fight with others,
* to work things out,
* to respect others,
* to clean up our mess,
* not to hurt other creatures
* to share – not be greedy.
Then why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do?
Do not forget why you’re attending these conferences, who you’re doing this for — we are your own children. You are deciding what kind of world we will grow up in. Parents should be able to comfort their children by saying “everyting’s going to be alright”, “we’re doing the best we can” and “it’s not the end of the world”.
But I don’t think you can say that to us anymore. Are we even on your list of priorities? My father always says “You are what you do, not what you say.”
Well, what you do makes me cry at night. You grown ups say you love us. I challenge you, please make your actions reflect your words. Thank you for listening
Do Less Thinking, and pay more attention to your heart.
Do Less Acquiring, and pay more attention to what you already have.
Do Less Complaining, and pay more attention to giving.
Do Less Controlling, and pay more attention to letting go.
Do Less Criticizing, and pay more attention to complementing.
Do Less Arguing, and pay more attention to forgiveness.
Do Less Running Around, and pay more attention to stillness.
Do Less Talking, and pay more attention to silence.
Stand By My Belief
I am not bound to win; but I am bound to be true.
I am not bound to succeed; but I am bound to live by the light that I have.
I must stand with anybody who stands right;
Stand with him while he is right; Part with him when he goes wrong.
I will stand by my belief. Always.
MOUNTAINS OF LIFE
Sometimes we find ourselves at the bottom of mountains: a mountain of sins that need to be corrected; a mountain of things that need to be achieved; or even a mountain of self-refinement that needs to occur. At first, we may attempt to jump over the mega-mountains of life, but this only causes us to fall back to where we started, with nothing more than skinned knees and hurt palms. This leaves us at the bottom of the mountain, staring upward through tear-blurred eyes, trying to figure out how we are going to make it to the out-of-sight peak. The keys to this reoccurring dilemma are submission and patience.
A giant of our past, Imam Al-Ghazali (rahimahullah, may God be pleased with him), faced mountains just as we all do. It is narrated that he found himself in a major life crisis, being pulled at by the dunya (this world) and doubting his own intentions. This scholar was afflicted with some kind of impediment that prevented him from speaking in his classes. He desired strongly to please his students, and attempted to continue teaching, but his mouth became numb and he was forced into silence. This was not an easy thing on Imam Al-Ghazali (ra). He found himself in a violent state of despair, unable to even swallow a morsel of bread or drink a single drop of water. He became physically weak and was sent to doctors in hopes of a diagnosis that could be treated and bring him back to his normal state. The doctors, however, despaired of saving him and said, “The mischief is in the heart, and has communicated itself to the whole organism; there is no hope unless the cause of grievous sadness be arrested.”
It was at this point that Imam Al-Ghazali (ra) admitted his weakness. He became conscious of the weakness of his soul and turned completely to Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He). Describing his state he says, “I took refuge in God as a man at the end of himself and without resources.” It was only then that he was cured, and all his affairs were made easy on him. From his experience we can take away a very valuable lesson: internal peace will not be reached until we submit, utterly and completely, and admit that we are powerless and Allah (swt) is the All-Powerful.
Once we submit, utterly and completely, we must be sure to have patience—not only with the affairs that are occurring around us—but also with ourselves. Such is a lesson that we can learn from the creation of the fetus in the mother’s womb. Allah (swt) has described to us the steps that one goes through in development. In the mother’s womb each one of us begins as nutfah (a drop of fluid) then proceeds to become `alaqah (a clinging clot of blood) and finally becomes a mudghah (a lump that looks as if it has been chewed). All of these stages occur even before the rooh, or spirit, is blown into the creation. Al-Qaari sheds light upon a lesson that can be derived from these stages. He says that Allah (swt), without a doubt, has the ability to create anything in one moment but this was not the path that He, subhanahu wa ta`ala, chose. Instead, as a mercy upon the mother and as a sign for those who ponder, He caused us to be created step-by-step and made us aware of this. We should try and understand the wisdom behind this and realize that to accomplish things correctly and properly they must be done in the proper manner, with the proper stages. Just as Kert Lewin, a German-American psychologist, said, “A successful individual typically sets his next goal somewhat but not too much above his last achievement. In this way he steadily raises his level of aspiration.”
It is through these two techniques that we can begin to climb the mountains of life. If one of these two elements is missing, the mountains before us will only grow larger, and our state more lowly. Without full submission to Allah (swt), nothing is successfully possible. Any results we achieve will be temporary and fleeting. Without patience, we’ll continuously end up back at the beginning, staring upward, soaking heavily in our own despair. Take things a step at a time, constantly turning to Him along the way, and remember: “If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick up one of those pieces and begin again.”
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 28,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.