When you are little, it's not hard to believe you can change the world. I remember my enthusiasm when, at the age of 12, I addressed the delegates at the Rio Earth Summit2). "I am only a child," I told them. "Yet I know that if all the money spent on war was spent on ending poverty and finding environmental answers, what a wonderful place this would be. In school 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? You grownups say you love us, but I challenge you, please, to make your actions reflect your words."
I spoke for six minutes and received a standing ovation3). Some of the delegates even cried. I thought that maybe I had reached some of them, that my speech might actually spur4) action. Now, a decade from Rio, after I've sat through5) many more conferences, I'm not sure what has been accomplished. My confidence in the people in power and in the power of an individual's voice to reach them has been deeply shaken.
Sure, I've seen some improvements since Rio. In my home city of Vancouver, most people put out6) their recycling boxes. The organic grocery and café on Fourth Avenue is flourishing. Bikes are popular, and there are a few gas-electric hybrid cars gliding7) around. But as this new century begins, my twenty something generation is becoming increasingly disconnected from the natural world. We buy our drinking water in bottles. We eat genetically modified organisms. We drive the biggest cars ever. At the same time, we are a generation aware of the world—of poverty and social imbalance, the loss of biodiversity, climate change and the consequences of globalization—but many of us feel we have inherited8) problems too great to do anything about.
When I was little, the world was simple. But as a young adult, I'm learning that as we have to make choices—education, career, lifestyle—life gets more and more complicated. We are beginning to feel pressure to produce and be successful. We are learning a shortsighted way of looking at the future, focusing on four-year government terms and quarterly business reports. We are taught that economic growth is progress, but we aren't taught how to pursue a happy, healthy or sustainable way of living. And we are learning that what we wanted for our future when we were 12 was idealistic and naive9).
Today I'm no longer a child, but I'm worried about what kind of environment my children will grow up in. In Johannesburg10) the delegates will discuss the adoption and implementation11) of documents by governments. Yes, important stuff. But they did that at Rio. What this meeting must really be about is responsibility—not only government responsibility but personal responsibility. We are not cleaning up our own mess. We are not facing up to the price of our lifestyles. In Canada we know we are wiping out12) the salmon13) of the West Coast, just as we wiped out cod14) from the East Coast, but we continue overfishing. We keep driving our SUVs15) in the city, even though we are starting to feel the effects of climate change—a direct result of burning too much fossil fuel.
Real environmental change depends on us. We can't wait for our leaders. We have to focus on what our own responsibilities are and how we can make the change happen.
Before graduating from college last spring I worked with the Yale Student Environmental Coalition16) to draft a pledge17) for young people to sign. Called "the Recognition of Responsibility", the pledge is a commitment from our generation to be accountable and a challenge to our elders to help us achieve this goal and to lead by example. It includes a list of ways to live more sustainably—simple but fundamental things like reducing household garbage, consuming less, not relying on cars so much, eating locally grown food, carrying a reusable cup and, most important, getting out into nature. Three friends and I will take the Recognition of Responsibility to Johannesburg, where we will meet with South African students and then present the pledge to the World Summit as a demonstration of personal commitment.
But in the 10 years since Rio, I have learned that addressing our leaders is not enough. As Gandhi said many years ago, "We must become the change we want to see." I know change is possible, because I am changing, still figuring out what I think. I am still deciding how to live my life. The challenges are great, but if we accept individual responsibility and make sustainable choices, we will rise to the challenges, and we will become part of the positive tide of change.
1. Severn Cullis-Suzuki: 珊文·卡利斯-铃木,加拿大人,12岁时以“儿童代表”的身份在巴西里约热内卢地球峰会上发表了一篇六分钟的演说,倡导环保,令整个联合国会场足足静默了五分钟。次年,她荣获联合国环境规划署颁发的“全球五百精英荣誉奖”。之后,她一直致力于环保。2002年,22岁的她从美国耶鲁大学毕业,创立了非政府组织Skyfish Project ,努力开展ROR (Recognition of Responsibility,体认责任)计划,旨在提醒大家:改变世界、保护地球并非是政府的责任,而是我们每个人的责任。
2. Rio Earth Summit: 联合国里约地球峰会,于1992年6月在巴西里约热内卢举行,178个国家代表出席。该峰会产生了关于环境及发展的《里约宣言》(The Rio Declaration),通过了一份厚达800页的行动纲领——《21世纪议程》(Agenda 21),第一次确立了可持续发展作为人类发展的新战略。
3. ovation [Eu5veIFEn] n. 热烈欢迎;热烈鼓掌,欢呼
4. spur [sp\:(r)] vt. 促进,激励,鞭策,鼓舞
5. sit through: (听音乐会、演讲等虽不欣赏仍然)一直坐到结束;耐着性子听完
6. put out: 将某物置于某处,供其他人分享或使用
7. glide [^laId] vi. 滑行;滑移
8. inherit [In5herIt] vt. (从前人、前任等)接过,得到
9. naive [nB:5i:v] adj. 天真的
10. Johannesburg [dVEu5hAnIsb\:^] n. 约翰内斯堡[南非东北部城市]。此处指2002年在约翰内斯堡召开的可持续性问题峰会(The World Summit on Sustainable Development)。此次峰会旨在为参会者提供一个作出具体承诺的重要机会,以便采取行动,执行里约地球峰会的行动纲领——《21世纪议程》,实现可持续发展。下一段中的“World Summit”也是指这次世界峰会。
11. implementation [7ImplImen5teIFEn] n. 实施,执行
12. wipe out: 彻底摧毁;消灭
13. salmon [5sAmEn] n. 【鱼】鲑,大麻哈鱼
14. cod [kCd] n. 【鱼】鳕,鳕鱼
15. SUV: sport utility vehicle,运动型汽车
16. coalition [7kEuE5lIFEn] n. 结合体,联合
17. pledge [pledV] n. 誓约
Severn's Speech Transcript
Hello, I'm Severn Suzuki speaking for E.C.O.—The Environmental Children's Organization. We are a group of twelve and thirteen-year-olds from Canada trying to make a difference. 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 butterflies, 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 realize, 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 politicians—but really you are mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, 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, 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 everything 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, or 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 "everything'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.