In 1992, 12-year-old Severn Suzuki silenced the world at the Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro. She had traveled 5,000 miles, from Canada to Brazil, to speak on behalf of protecting the earth for the generations that would inherit it.
World leaders had come together at this summit to address the issue of climate change and environmental crises. But despite Severn’s message to inspire action among world leaders, the first United Nations Earth Summit in Brazil came and passed without any concrete action. The world soon forgot Severn’s plea for action to protect our planet.
More than 20 years have passed since then, and the state of our planet continues to deteriorate.
Living systems that have been evolving for millions of years are collapsing and we are seeing the greatest mass extinction since the dinosaurs roamed the Earth. We are overfishing our oceans at a rate that is threatening the survival of aquatic ecosystems all over the world. Rising temperatures are acidifying our oceans and melting glaciers that contain mass amounts of methane being released in to our atmosphere and adding to our climate crisis. We are losing 7.3 million hectares of forest the lungs of our Earth, every single year while half of our world's forests have already been destroyed. Our planet's life support systems are unravelling and our survival, the survival of all species on Earth are in danger.
In 2012, the United Nations again brought together world leaders to try and hatch out a climate recovery plan at Rio+20 U.N. Summit in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Young people from 110 countries also came together for this summit, to show the world they weren't going to sit idly as politics and money hindered our leaders from making real change toward climate solutions.
I was honored to speak on U.N. panels there, and to join together in ceremony with Indigenous tribes from across Brazil and different parts of the world. Our goal was to bring the sacred knowledge of the indigenous peoples to the forefront and remind them we must return to the mindset of the world we once lived in. But our words fell upon deaf ears.
In our frustration over inaction by world leaders, myself and other youth knew we had to do something. We decided to take over U.N. meetings on the last day of the summit. We entered the meetings and asked for the floor to share a message from the children of the world. We shared our plea: to wake up to the dire state of the world they were leaving us, and stand up to protect our future.
But again, our words were not heard!
As our world continued to spin out of control, negotiators, representatives, politicians and the worlds largest polluters came together once again for the 2014 COP 20 in Lima, Peru, in an effort to come to a binding agreement on Climate Change. The outcome in Lima would help them set goals at the COP 21 in Paris in late 2015.
The fossil fuel industry was allowed the freedom to roam the halls during the negotiations in an attempt to weaken the agreement. The outcome in Lima showed a lack of urgency and left many key issues unresolved.
Our very survival could depend on the decisions that are made in Paris at the COP 21.
We are at an important tipping point in which we need to make a fundamental shift in the way we relate to our Earth. We are viewing the Earth as just a resource, and destroying our own life support systems for materialistic, over consumptive lifestyles and our Earth can no longer support us.
Since the first Earth Summit, we have put all of our hope and faith in our leaders. We have relied on them to bring the solutions to us. We have failed to see the power we have as individuals, and as people, and citizens of the world. It is time for us to stand up, unite and be the Climate Leaders that can turn the tides!
We are building a groundswell leading up to the COP 21 in Paris in December of this year. Our voices must be heard! Join us by signing a pledge to be a Climate Leader, here, and take action in your communities. Join other groups that are already active and building solutions on the ground.
We (youth who want a sustainable future) will share our collective voices through our Climate Leader Pledge to world leaders at the COP 21 demanding a healthy, just, sustainable world for future generations. They must hear us! The kind of world we will be left with is in their hands because they have the political power to agree on and implement a binding concrete climate action plan to get our carbon back down to a safe zone of 350 ppm’s.
If we do not come out of COP 21 with this agreement, we the people must continue to RISE and take our future into our own hands to build the sustainable, just world we deserve to inherit!