Are you here to save face? Or are you here to save us?

On Wednesday 20 June, 2012 17-year-old Brittany Trilford of Wellington, New Zealand addressed 130 heads of state at the opening plenary of the Rio+20 UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This is her speech.

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?