Twenty-seven years before teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg swept the world off its feet with her feisty, impassioned speech about climate change, a 12-year-old had stunned the world with her words too.
A young girl called Severn Cullis-Suzuki, who hailed from British Columbia in Canada, had taken the podium in front of world leaders in 1992 to share her concerns about global warming.
She too had pleaded with the tallest politicians from the world over back in the time, to try and prevent species extinction and avert an ecological disaster.
She made her speech at the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro and soon came to be known as “the girl who silenced the world for five minutes”.
The video was uploaded on YouTube in 2008 by the title ‘The girl who silenced the world for 5 minutes’ and it went viral shortly after that. The clip has nearly 8 lakh views on YouTube at the moment.
She can be heard saying in the video: “Coming up 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. 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.”
Now, Cullis-Suzuki was an eco-conscious student just like Thunberg and she too harboured the fear of growing up in a polluted world with very little flora and fauna left. Being the daughter of environmental scientist David Suzuki, the urge to save the world might have come to her naturally. Echoing thoughts strikingly similar to hers, Greta had just told world leaders at the United Nations about how they have stolen her childhood with their empty words and hollow promises of a better future.
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you.”