Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The 12 Year Old Girl Who Shamed The World

12 years old addressing UN summit

All grown up

Gaining a little weight

Continuing her work

With Dad

Happy Birthday Severn!

I love children... other people's children. I always smile when I see them on the bus doing children things. Sometimes they smile back at me.
I've related previously one of, if not the greatest thing that has ever happened to me while living near downtown Los Angeles.
Alright, if you insist... here it is again:
I told this story to my lovely case manager once in a nearby McDonalds restaurant while waiting for her iced coffee (vanilla). I told her this: One day, several years ago, I had made my way to the bus stop near the corner of Sixth and Central, on the northeast corner, to be exact. At the time it was raining quite hard, and a little river of water was rushing on the street near the sidewalk, rushing into the storm drain. Fairly soon an 18 bus pulled up to the stop... and me, and opened its forward door. Inside was a beautiful little Hispanic girl, who couldn't have been any more than four or five years old, all dressed up for the inclement weather, looking just adorable. Her mother was at the top of the steps, busy with the driver. The little girl came down the steps, looked at me, looked down at the rushing water in the street below between her and the sidewalk, then looked back at me. And this is what happened. She gave me a great big smile while raising both of her little arms way up toward me, thereby demanding that I pick her up and safely transport her across the watery abyss onto the safety of the sidewalk. At this point in my story, Erin went, "Ahhhhh." I dutifully did as the little girl demanded, settling her gently onto the sidewalk. Her mother came down and thanked me, and they continued on their way. I got on the bus and continued on my way. And I'll always remember that as one of the greatest things.
Why do I like children? I like them because they are pure and true, and honest. The younger they are the more honest. They are curious and trusting. Maybe too trusting. They are innocent which is the opposite of being corrupt. They tend to care about issues that affect them in a most direct way. The are unabashedly egocentric. And they are cute... most of the time. As a matter of fact their "cuteness" is a survival mechanism for making adults, including their own parents, look out for them for they are essentially helpless for many years after being born.
And they represent our future. They are our replacements, and therefore are precious and should be treated that way. They are a resource, one that needs to flourish if our species is to maintain itself.
And considering our species as it stands today, the future generations of human beings are going to have to make very hard decisions, and part from the established norms their parents so persistently adhered to. They have to change, quite frankly, or the human species will perish, pulling down a whole bunch of other species along with it.
What were you doing when you were twelve years old, dear readers? I vaguely remember what I was doing only because my father had died the previous year, thus providing an important event in my life my memory can rally around.
When I was twelve my dear mother was in the process of selling the liquor store my father had owned, the store just across the street from Universal Studios. Fairly soon after that I would start taking days off from school, start drinking and smoking, and generally creating a hell on Earth for my mother who was busy trying to make a new life for herself and certainly didn't need my nonsense.
But such is life. We had to go through what we had to go through I guess. I survived my teenage years, as did my mother, and eventually turned into the great success and self actualized individual I am today. But enough about me.
Some twelve year olds took a much different route. Some, like Severn Cullis Suzuki, while attending elementary school, at age 9, founded the Environmental Children's Organization (ECO), a group of kids dedicated to learning and teaching other kids about environmental issues that affected the entire planet.
That was when she was 9. She was just getting started.
When she was 12, she and a few of her ECO members paid for their way to the Earth Summit, a major United Nations conference held in Rio de Janeiro from June 3rd to the 14th, in 1992. She was the natural spokesperson for her group, and she made an address to the assembly. She was very honest, sincere, non-confrontational, eloquent, and truthful.
In 1992 I was at the Salvation Army in Pasadena trying to get my life together. Severn Cullis Suzuki was busy trying to change the world.
We have to be honest here. It appears that she was indeed influenced to some degree by her family. Her mom, Dr. Tara Cullis, is a writer, and "has been a key player in environmental movements in the Amazon, Southeast Asia, and British Columbia." Her dad, David Suzuki, is the well known Canadian academic, science broadcaster and environmental activist. He is the host of Canada's longest-running documentary series, "The Nature of Things," having recently celebrated his 30th anniversary on the show, which is seen in over forty countries. He is also well known for criticizing governments for their lack of action to protect the environment. In 2009, Mr. Suzuki called for putting the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, in jail, apparently for his mismanagement of environmental issues.
Here's a promo for the television program:
And a link to the David Suzuki Foundation:
Which his wife is co-founder and president of.
Obviously Severn's parents were a bad influence on her.
Also obviously, considering Severn and David's last name, they are of Irish ancestry. However this did not stop Canada from interning David and his family during World War II when he was 3 years old. Until I read of his life I had not known Canada had followed the United States in the deplorable action of jailing it's own citizens based simply on racial distinctions.
In June 1942, the government sold the Suzuki family's dry-cleaning business, then interned Suzuki, his mother, and two sisters in a camp at Slocan in the British Columbia Interior. His father had been sent to a labor camp in Solsqua two months earlier. Suzuki's sister, Dawn, was born in the internment camp, where they all remained until the end of the war.
I researched for this post yesterday, shortly before I wrote it, which I'm doing right now. Ironically, I came across this story that I found on the Internet machine.
"Thousands of Japanese-Americans who fought in the fiercest battles of World War II and became some of the most decorated soldiers in the nation's history were given an overdue thank-you from their country [USA] Wednesday when Congress awarded them its highest civilian honor.
Nearly seven decades after the war's beginning, Congress awarded three units the Congressional Gold Medal. In all, about 19,000 Japanese-Americans served in the units honored at a ceremony."
The video of 12 year old Severn became very popular, no doubt due in a large part to her youth, her sincerity and earnestness, her ability to place blame where it belonged, and her ability to clearly communicate her message.
For some reason the video has made a resurgence lately which is why I'm writing about her now. I just found out about it, and her, a little while ago.
The video is often titled, "The Girl Who Silenced the World for Six Minutes." I think whoever came up with that title was taking a little poetic license, as there is no record of the world being completely silent at any point in June of 1992. She certainly silenced the people of the UN that were attending the Rio conference, as you can see in the video.
I'm not going to go into detail concerning the exact issues Severn brought up 19 years ago. She is perfectly able to do that herself in the following video clips. She did bring up a point that I found exceptionally interesting which is the concept of the world's leaders, governments, businesses responsible for the exacerbation of climate change and global warming as participants in inter-generational crime. Criminal acts that will not affect those who generate the effects of climate change, but will affect their progeny in disastrous and irreversible ways.
All of us are guilty, some more than others.
The UN delegates to the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, listened to Severn politely, were duly impressed by this earnest young lady, and then promptly forgot about her message and warning, going back to business as usual. The proof of this being the current state of our environment and the continuation of use of our atmosphere and oceans as sewers for industrial waste, and the dumping of greenhouse gases from the exhaust emissions from our vehicles. We have continued to be inter-generational criminals.
That hasn't stopped Severn.
The year after the Summit she was honored in the United Nations Environment Program's Global 500 Roll of Honor. At the age of 13 Doubleday published her book "Tell the World," a 32-page book of environmental steps for families. She graduated from Yale University, with a B.S. in ecology and evolutionary biology. She followed in her father's footsteps and co-hosted "Suzuki's Nature Quest," a children's television series that aired on the Discovery Channel in 2002. And as the following videos document, she has continued in her work with the environment.
This is Severn's speech at the University of BC in Canada on October 2008.
Here Severn speaks as the international ambassador for the conservation group RARE:
And speaking about the upcoming Earth Summit 2012, again taking place in Rio:
Here is the website she mentioned:
In 2010 Severn was the main character in the documentary film "Severn, the voice of our children." Below is the film's website:
Here is a written interview that appeared in the May 2011 issue of ZME Science:
And a little lecture to round things off:
Severn, what a lovely name. When I have a daughter I'm going to name her Severn too (if whoever the mother is lets me).
She's very pretty as well... for a girl.
Girl. She's all grown up now, and today celebrates her 32nd birthday.
She lives with her husband and son on an island off the north coast of British Columbia, where it's cold and rains a lot.
And now, with the awakening of the Occupy movement around the world, the issues that she has fought so hard to promote throughout her life, throughout the lives of her mother and father, will undoubtedly come to the forefront of a new global consciousness, one that will not, and can not be ignored.
Happy Birthday Severn!

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