17 Year-Old Brittany Trilford Addresses World Leaders at the UN Earth Summit

"Are you hear to save face? Or are you hear to save us?"

What would you say if given the opportunity to tell world leaders your thoughts on climate change? For 17 year-old New Zealander, Brittany Trilford, that opportunity became a reality this morning at the Rio+20 Earth Summit. Invited to provide the opening speech, Trilford delivered a polite, but stern address to the 130 heads of state and representatives in attendance. Her demand: Do something.

For those of us that recognize the existential threat that human-induced global climate change poses to the future of human civilization, it has become almost unbearable to watch as year after year passes by with little to no action being taken to seriously address the myriad issues that contribute to this crisis.

When you consider the dire consequences of a warming world, as explained in this great presentation by David Roberts, it is no surprise to hear Trilford open her speech by stating the urgency of the situation and her confusion at the inaction of world leaders. Trilford states:

"I stand here with fire in my heart. I’m confused and angry at the state of the world and I want us to work together now to change this. We are here to solve the problems that we have caused as a collective, to ensure that we have a future.

You and your governments have promised to reduce poverty and sustain our environment. You have already promised to combat climate change, ensure clean water and food security. Multi-national corporations have already pledged to respect the environment, green their production, compensate for their pollution. These promises have been made and yet, still, our future is in danger.

We are all aware that time is ticking and is quickly running out. You have 72 hours to decide the fate of your children, my children, my children’s children. And I start the clock now… tck tck tck."

Trilford's speech is a symbolic bookend to the speech given by teenager, Severn Suzuki during the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. A video of her 1992 speech is embedded at the bottom of this post.

The full text of the Trilford's speech is below:

Brittany Trilford Speech to UN Rio+20 Summit Opening Ceremony

Tena Koutou from New Zealand. My name is Brittany Trilford. I am seventeen years old, a child. Today, in this moment, I am all children, your children, the world’s three billion children. Think of me for these short minutes as half the world.

I stand here with fire in my heart. I’m confused and angry at the state of the world and I want us to work together now to change this. We are here to solve the problems that we have caused as a collective, to ensure that we have a future.

You and your governments have promised to reduce poverty and sustain our environment. You have already promised to combat climate change, ensure clean water and food security. Multi-national corporations have already pledged to respect the environment, green their production, compensate for their pollution. These promises have been made and yet, still, our future is in danger.

We are all aware that time is ticking and is quickly running out. You have 72 hours to decide the fate of your children, my children, my children’s children. And I start the clock now… tck tck tck.

Let us think back to twenty years ago - well before I was even an inkling in my parents’ eyes - back to here, to Rio, where people met at the first Earth Summit in 1992. People at this Summit knew there needed to be change. All of our systems were failing and collapsing around us. These people came together to acknowledge these challenges to work for something better, commit to something better.

They made great promises, promises that, when I read them, still leave me feeling hopeful. These promises are left – not broken, but empty. How can that be? When all around us is the knowledge that offers us solutions. Nature as a design tool offers insight into systems that are whole, complete, that give life, create value, allow
progress, transformation, change.

We, the next generation, demand change. We demand action so that we have a future and have it guaranteed. We trust that you will, in the next 72 hours, put our interests ahead of all other interests and boldly do the right thing. Please, lead. I want leaders who lead.

I am here to fight for my future. That is why I’m here. I would like to end by asking you to consider why you’re here and what you can do. Are you here to save face? Or are you here to save us?

The 1992 speech by Severn Suzuki at the first Earth Summit in Rio.

Tags: Rio+20

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