Raised inVancouver andToronto, Severn Cullis-Suzuki has been camping and hiking all her life. When she was 9 she started the Environmental Children’s Organization (ECO), a small group of children committed to learning and teaching other kids about environmental issues. They were successful in many projects before 1992, when they raised enough money to go to the UN’s Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Their aim was to remind the decision-makers of who their actions or inactions would ultimately affect. The goal was reached when 12 yr old Severn closed a Plenary Session with a powerful speech that received a standing ovation.
Severn Suzuki speaking at UN Earth Summit 1992
And now, 20 years later another similar stunt is in the process of being prepared to . . . show the world that even children realise that action speaks louder than words. The worldwide 2012 Living Rainforest International Essay competition now shines another “ray of hope” . . . the first prize was won by Nardos Tilahun, and she will now be able to travel to Rio and address the leaders of the world. The Auckland Girls Grammar School’s website explains: ‘The competition asked contestants to write a letter to the UN Secretary General to share their ideas on what governments and world leaders should be doing to build a more sustainable future on planet Earth. When considering what she would write, Nardos thought back to a video clip she had seen called The Story of Stuff which examined the impact of consumerism on the environment. She did further research of her own and, the night before the deadline, wrote her essay. She entitled her essay ‘Exploiting Consumerism to Save our Planet’ and argued that since the human desire to consume won’t change, we should change the kinds of products that are produced. One of her suggestions was that rather than mining for natural resources and ruining the environment, we should be mining our landfills for material that can be recycled into new products. She also proposed that governments offer incentives to companies to become more eco-friendly through taxing those who [are] not sustainable in their products or business practice[s], or not restricting their ability to advertise. While this competition is sponsored by Living Rainforest, a small education trust in the UK, the judges for this competition included experts in the field of sustainable development and the environment. Over eight hundred students from all over the world entered the essay competition and the other finalists came from far flung places such as Cameroon, Kazakhstan, Russia, Singapore, Samoa, Nepal, the Seychelles and the Philippines. Nardos’s generous prize includes flights, a week’s accommodation in a luxury apartment on Copacabana beach, the opportunity to attend the UN Earth Summit, a private city tour and money to cover [the] living expenses [in Rio]. Nardos and her family came to New Zealand in 2004 from Ethiopia as political asylum seekers. She is very excited about this opportunity to visit Brazil and observe the Rio+20 Earth Summit in action. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, known as Rio+20, will be held in Rio de Janeiro from 20-22 June 2012. It is expected to be the biggest meeting on the international calendar in 2012 . 115 Heads of State and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will be in attendance. Nardos hopes to be able to deliver her letter in person!’.
‘United Nations, New York, 22 November 2011 – To promote next June’s Rio+20 conference and the need for sustainable development, the United Nations launched a campaign engaging people in a global conversation on the kind of communities they would like to live in twenty years from now. The campaign, Rio+20: The Future We Want, works through public participation to envision how societies in all parts of the world can build a future that promotes prosperity and improves people’s quality of life without further degrading our planet’s natural environment’.
 “AGGS STUDENT OFF TO RIO+20 EARTH SUMMIT” Auckland Girls Grammar School. http://www.aggs.school.nz/News-/-Events/aggs-student-off-to-rio20-earth-summit.html.