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Youth Activists Declare Rio+20 Conference on Climate Change a Failure

In 1992, a courageous 12 year old girl named Severn Suzuki gave a speech addressing the United Nations Earth Summit. Her astonishing speech has been called “The Girl who Silenced the World for Five Minutes”. She called for  world leadership to  address the serious problems we face, and to remind them that they decide the fate of the next generation.

Her speech asked world leaders to create a world where children can grow up free of hunger, war, poverty, and pollution.

Twenty years later, environmental activists at the Rio+20 Earth Summit confront the failure of world governments to realize these goals. Severn Cullis-Suzuki once again delivered a speech, this one a crowd-sourced speech delivered on the same themes she spoke of 20 years ago.

With the conclusion of the summit, environmental and youth activists around the world have had to confront just how large that failure is. The summit produced lukewarm, vague goals that do not move the world any closer to the one envisioned by Suzuki 20 years ago.

On June 22nd, the UN Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY) issued their closing remarks on the Rio+20, opening with this statement: “I want you to imagine a generation that has been damned, imagine children deprived of a world without war, imagine a community where human beings are slaves to fellow beings and where disease and hunger are the order of the day. That is the future we warned you of in 92 and that future, is today.”

The need for youth and citizens to take their future into their own hands is the theme of their statement, and the theme of messages from many organizations from Greenpeace to 350.org to Oxfam.

“Rio+20 has been a failure of epic proportions,” Said Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo. “The only outcome of this summit is justifiable anger, an anger that we must turn into action.”

The takeaway message for youth activists, or activists of any age, is that creating a “world we want” cannot be left to governments or corporations, but must come down to us.

The closing words of the MGCY sum it up perfectly:

“So we will move forward for you.

We know this:
We need intergenerational cooperation.
We need innovation and creativity.
We need to embrace the values of sustainability, equity, justice and respect for human rights.
We need to recognise that material resources are finite, but human potential is not.

So get out of our way and..

We will create strong global institutions
We will create new paradigms of wealth and prosperity
We will act as the voice for future generations, one that you so wilfully ignored.
We will stand united beyond borders and bridge the national interests that divide us
We will implement what you have not.

We are moving forward decisively with action. We are not deterred.”

If you are someone who wants to be a part of the growing global movement to take action to bring about a better world, there is no better place to be than YEA Camp this summer! Join us for a week of activism training and making like-minded friends who care as much as you do. Camp is fast approaching, so visit www.yeacamp.org today for details on our camps in Oregon, California, and New Jersey.