6 Minutes of Silence
The Story of Severn Cullis-Suzuki
The Beginning of Severn
Imagine, you're standing in front of lots of government, everyone staring at you. You start to sweat, not only because of the heat, but because of your anxiety. That's what Severn Cullis-Suzuki had to do. Severn traveled to Rio, Brazil with the money that was donated to her organization she made with the help of her friends and family. Her speech was only 6 minutes long, but it was very powerful. Being only 12 years old, everyone doubted her, but she knew her limits, her strengths, and weaknesses. Sure, it seemed scary, or even impossible every once and awhile, but she knew she could do it, and she definitely did it right.
Who Was Severn?
Severn was a little girl with huge dreams and opinions. Growing up in Canada, a land that is very woodsy and green, she hated seeing people litter or see litter just laying around. As she got older, she started noticing more and more the impact that pollution, whether it be when she saw cars passing puffing out black smoke or seeing overflowing garbage cans at outdoor activities. In school, she would constantly express her strong opinion about pollution. As her opinion grew, a dream grew. A dream to raise awareness for pollution. She started an association with her friends that was later named ECO.
Making of the ECO
Severn started an association for 12-13 year olds called the ECO, Environmental Children's Organization. Severn and her friends held fundraisers to pay for her trip to Rio for the first annual World Summit, where there would be lots of government and adults discussing global issues, such as pollution and how to prevent it from getting worse. Finally, after many fundraisers, they were able to raise enough money for her to travel to Rio. Since Severn lived in Canada, her flight was going to take quite a long time to get there.
Holes in our Ozone Layer
In a part of Severn’s speech, she mentions that we can’t fix the holes in our ozone. This is true, but we can help this. We can use less fossil fuels such as the gas cars run on. The Ozone Layer protects us from UV rays, that can cause eye contractions and damage your immune system. When your immune system is damaged, you are more likely to get diseases. In the book, Vanishing Ozone by Laurence Pringle, he says, “Other living things cannot consciously protect themselves, and ever since the CFC threat to the ozone layer was first identified, scientist have tried to assess the danger of stronger doses of ultraviolet light to plants and animals. In 1994, large numbers of kangaroos in south eastern Australia, went blind. whether the cause was UV light or disease is being investigated.” This proves another one of Severn’s points in her speech, that if we don’t help these things in our world, we won’t have many things that our next generation will get to see.
During Her Speech
Leading up to the ceremony, the conductors would not let children that brought speeches say them. An adult had dropped out last minute, so Severn jumped to the opportunity and volunteered to fill in. Many people had given speeches, but they were older, so it was expected of them to give well written speeches. When Severn stepped up to the podium, everyone was already suprise. In her speech, she says, “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!” This line was so powerful, it caused all of the people to go completely silent.
In Severn Cullis-Suzuki’s speech, she also says, “Losing my future is not like losing an election or a few points in the stock market. I am here to speak for all generations to come,” Little did she know that she really impacted people. That's exactly what she did. Now, our pollution level has gone down and we now have substitutes for thing that can be bad for our environment. You can thank Severn for helping with that.
Anxiety- a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
Opinion- a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.
Woodsy- of, relating to, or characteristic of wood or woodlands.
Association- a group of people organized for a joint purpose.
Annual- occurring once every year.
Prevent- keep (something) from happening or arising.
Eye contractions- Excessive blinking
Podium- a small platform on which a person may stand to be seen by an audience, as when making a speech or conducting an orchestra.
- Jankeliowitch, Anne. Kids Who Are Changing the World. France: Mariniere, 2012.
- Occham, William. “ssjothiratnam” Full text of Severn Suzuki’s speech to UN Earth summit. Apr. 18. 2012. BBC Science. Wednesday, Dec.
- Zyne. “Speakers” Severn Cullis-Suzuki- 02 dec. 2015.