If You Don't Know How To Fix It, PLEASE Stop Breaking It!

A then-12 year old Severn Suzuki addresses the United Nations at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992.

Breathtaking. I was literally moved to tears. What an incredible young woman. The looks on the faces of the members in attendance can best be described as ashamed. Too bad our leaders haven’t taken heed of her powerful words.

6 minute, 41 second video: http://wimp.com/powerfulspeech/

That was extraordinary and humbling. Thank you very much for sharing.


Happy March 4th, Olives!

Thanks :slight_smile:

You know, it makes me happy thinking that Severn Suzuki is an adult now actually engaging with the world on a professional level. I hope she’s retained her idealism.

Sounds like she has! Go on, girl.

You’re welcome. I figured the folks around here would appreciate it. It’s really quite moving.

My first thought on seeing the name Suzuki was, “Suzuki - that’s a familiar name in the world of environmentalism.” No big surprise that she is the daughter of Dr. David Suzuki, Canada’s foremost environmentalist.

What she says, “If you don’t know how to fix it, please stop breaking it!” puts into words how I feel about things like global warming; we don’t have 100% absolute certainty about what’s going on, but these are bets that need to be hedged because the stakes are so high.

Very cool. His CV is quite impressive.

I couldn’t agree more.

My first thought on seeing the name Suzuki was, “Isn’t that a kind of motorcycle?” I thought this was going to be a thread where the OP was complaining that their 12-year-old motorcycle kept breaking.

Well, if you must know, it actually does! Except that it’s a Honda, not a Suzuki. But damn, that was a pretty close guess! :slight_smile:

transcript at


Wow. Am I the only one who found it trite and presumptuous? There’s a reason we don’t generally take policy direction from adolescents.

It’s clear she was marinated in the quasi-religious eco ethos. Characterizing yourself as coming “to tell you adults you must change your ways” is more than a bit quasi-Messianic.

I’d say the self-righteous enviro cult upbringing also accounts for her more-than-average-for-a-child naivete about human nature (gee, I dunno why we don’t all just ship our money down to help strangers in a Brazilian favela), economics (gee, I wonder why we keep using oil, it’s only the most convenient and concentrated store of energy we’ve ever had), and the dynamic rather than static nature of real life markets and systems (OMG the Canadian salmon are gone forever oops not quite – http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/28/on-our-radar-record-salmon-run-in-british-columbia/).

All in all, an exercise in precocity/head start on teenage self-dramatization.

As expected, a right-winger came into the thread to crap all over it.

I’m baffled. One would think that preserving the environment would be the “conservative” thing to do. It costs far more to clean up a polluted river than to avoid polluting it in the first place.

Barry Goldwater is spinning in his grave.

Other posters were suggesting that this kid had some transcendent wisdom to impart. If disagreeing with their opinion is “crapping all over” the thread, they may as well shut the board down.

The kid’s preachy tone and the “why wouldn’t conservatives just . . .” is what bugged me. There is always an undercurrent to the hardcore evangelical (and make no mistake, only the absence of God separates the preachiness from traditional annoying religiosity) eco message that it’s so obvious that we should “just” [insert deceptively simplistic implication that we can have a modern society in which privileged kids can jet to green summits and engage in a little favela-touring porn while also guaranteeing that not a single fishie gets killed and all the pretty dandelions and gopher tortoises thrive on our windfarms]. Coupled with this is the moral indignation that the “adults” (or “conservatives”) know that these solutions are (a) a moral imperative (there’s that morality/religion again) and (b) no-brainers to implement, but that they ignore them because (insert mustache-twirling villainy-for-villainy’s-sake).

My point that a twelve year old probably doesn’t have anything new to tell adult policymakers is that – she doesn’t. Everyone on the left and right understands the allegations of environemental risks. They’ve debated them and reached sometimes-different conclusions on how serious they are, what the trade-offs are (there is no documented instance of a hardcore on-the-grid environmental activist that I can think of who refuses to fly to conferences, doesn’t cheat with “green credits,” doesn’t bathe, etc. etc. – we all like modernity), what alternative solutions are. Hell, you are free to regard the evil energy companies as willing to monopolize solar power if it were profitable without subsidies – they’d do so in a heartbeat if it made sense.

Goldwater had some conservationist tendencies but was a pro-A-bomb nut (I say this affectionately). T. Roosevelt established national parks but was a big hunter. All of which goes to prove that the tradeoffs and choices are complex, and that glurge about some kid’s simplistic preaching does not advance the conversation about how (or why) to manage our resources.

Mostly I just thought it was really good public speaking for an 11-year-old. I mean she started her own organization and raised the money to fly her people to the summit. She may have been looking at things in an overly simplistic way, but this kid is clearly an extraordinary individual and deserves props for being that focused and organized at such a young age.

Oh, she’s doubtless smart enough and was precocious. I will admit to holding a bit of that against her as her dad was/is a well-known (in Canada) environmental activist and I suspected a leeetttle bit of stage-dad activity behind the scenes (but then I grew up with a bunch of stage-parented precocious kids so I may be overly cynical).

Uhm, dude, that’s why I posted it in Mundane Pointless Stuff I Must Share and not Great Debates.

If you’d like to, you know, debate the content of her speech, or who she was directing it to, or why a 12 year old’s ideas are simplistic, by all means, start your own thread, okay? Thanks bunches.

I would find her a lot more extraordinary if she wasn’t Dr. David Suzuki’s daughter - she’s been steeped in environmentalism since she was born.

I was “steeped in” engineering from the day I was born. Our family vacation albums probably have as many pictures of structures for the sake of their engineering feats as those of landscapes or us enjoying ourselves.

But there is no way in hell that at age 12, I would have been able to stand in front of an international audience of World Leaders and talk about the importance of retrofitting and earthquake engineering standards as a way to save lives, especially in impoverished nations where there are more likely to be massive deaths due to unsound building practices. I would have peed my pants in front of all those Very Important People.

The point of her getting up and speaking wasn’t that she should be taken more seriously because she’s the daughter of an environmentalist, it was to put a face to the abstract idea of, “won’t someone think of the children?” If you actually watch and listen to her, you will see and hear that she talks like a typical 12 year old. She actually thought that if countries stopped spending money on wars, they could send that “extra” money to poor countries and solve all their problems. As adults, we know those are the notions of a child. We (and they) aren’t or weren’t listening to her for solutions and that isn’t what she was trying to offer up.

She was standing up there saying, “Look at me. I’M the child who will one day INHERIT whatever mess you grownups are making today. So, [in child-speak], if you don’t know how to fix it [whatever “it” is – war, the environment, poverty, rain forest destruction, whatever], then PLEASE don’t break it, because I’M the one who will have to fix it LATER.”

Your father doesn’t have to be a famous scientist for you to wish to articulate that message. Lots of kids understand that concept. This one just had the confidence to go before the United Nations and say so. I think that’s pretty incredible for a 12 year old. YMMV.

Hell, I’m a 50 year old man, and I really want a t-shirt that says “If You Don’t Know How To Fix It, Please Stop Breaking It!”.