The girl who silenced the world for 5 minutes

Severn Cullis-Suzuki, daughter of David Suzuki, addresses the very first U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Rio.

A 12-year old girl from Canada traveled to Brazil and spoke to the United Nations Earth Summit to speak the truth with such power and grace that she silenced the world. She called on grownups to follow the same rules we teach our children. She defined the role of the climate negotiators then and today her words ring truer than when she spoke them. Her speech has been heard by millions.

21 years later and we still don’t have all the answers. Maybe we can’t erase all the damage we’ve done to our planet since then but we can start to do our best now in 2013, and get our neighbors and our leaders to do their best with us.

“If you don’t know how to fix it, stop breaking it.” We can’t wait any longer to do everything we can to stop breaking it.

Here she is returning to Rio again in 2012. She explains from a new perspective why it is that she believes humanity will act to change our future.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki returns to Rio +20

Hello, I’m Severn Suzuki speaking for E.C.O. – The Environmental Children’s Organisation. We are a group of twelve and thirteen-year-olds from Canada trying to make a difference: Vanessa Suttie, Morgan Geisler, Michelle Quigg and me. We raised all the money ourselves to come six thousand miles to tell you adults you must change your ways. Coming here today, I have no hidden agenda. I am fighting for my future.

Losing my future is not like losing an election or a few points on the stock market. I am here to speak for all generations to come. I am here to speak on behalf of the starving children around the world whose cries go unheard. I am here to speak for the countless animals dying across this planet because they have nowhere left to go. We cannot afford to not be heard.

I am afraid to go out in the sun now because of the holes in the ozone. I am afraid to breathe the air because I don’t know what chemicals are in it. I used to go fishing in Vancouver with my dad until just a few years ago we found the fish full of cancers. And now we hear about animals and plants going extinct every day – vanishing forever. In my life, I have dreamt of seeing the great herds of wild animals, jungles and rainforests full of birds and butterflies, but now I wonder if they will even exist for my children to see. Did you have to worry about these little things when you were my age? All this is happening before our eyes and yet we act as if we have all the time we want and all the solutions. I’m only a child and I don’t have all the solutions, but I want you to realise, neither do you!

You don’t know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer. You don’t know how to bring salmon back up a dead stream. You don’t know how to bring back an animal now extinct. And you can’t bring back forests that once grew where there is now desert. If you don’t know how to fix it, please stop breaking it!

Here, you may be delegates of your governments, business people, organisers, reporters or politicians – but really you are mothers and fathers, brothers and sister, aunts and uncles – and all of you are somebody’s child. I’m only a child yet I know we are all part of a family, five billion strong, in fact, 30 million species strong and we all share the same air, water and soil – borders and governments will never change that. I’m only a child yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal. In my anger, I am not blind, and in my fear, I am not afraid of telling the world how I feel.

In my country, we make so much waste, we buy and throw away, buy and throw away, buy and throw away, and yet northern countries will not share with the needy. Even when we have more than enough, we are afraid to share, we are afraid to let go of some of our wealth. In Canada, we live the privileged life, with plenty of food, water and shelter – we have watches, bicycles, computers and television sets. The list could go on for two days.

Two days ago here in Brazil, we were shocked when we spent some time with some children living on the streets. And this is what one child told us: “I wish I was rich and if I were, I would give all the street children food, clothes, medicine, shelter and love and affection.” If a child on the street who has nothing, is willing to share, why are we who have everything still so greedy?

I can’t stop thinking that these children are my age, that it makes a tremendous difference where you are born, that I could be one of those children living in the Favelas of Rio; I could be a child starving in Somalia; a victim of war in the Middle East or a beggar in India. I’m only a child yet I know if all the money spent on war was spent on ending poverty and finding environmental answers, what a wonderful place this earth would be!

At school, even in kindergarten, you teach us how to behave in the world. You teach us: not to fight with others, to work things out, to respect others, to clean up our mess, not to hurt other creatures to share – not be greedy. Then why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do? Do not forget why you’re attending these conferences, who you’re doing this for – we are your own children. You are deciding what kind of world we are growing up in. Parents should be able to comfort their children by saying “everything’s going to be alright’, “we’re doing the best we can” and “it’s not the end of the world”.

But I don’t think you can say that to us anymore. Are we even on your list of priorities? My father always says “You are what you do, not what you say.” Well, what you do makes me cry at night. You grown ups say you love us. I challenge you, please make your actions reflect your words. Thank you for listening.

 

World Reaches CO2 Milestone: 400ppm

Seasonally adjusted, our global average CO2 is now 395ppm; but May 9th marks the first day in human history when we crossed the 400ppm threshold at Mauna Loa. –M. Foster

The New York Times           May 10, 2013

Heat-Trapping Gas Passes Milestone, Raising Fears

By 
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/11/science/earth/carbon-dioxide-level-passes-long-feared-milestone.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130511&_r=0

The level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, has passed a long-feared milestone, scientists reported Friday, reaching a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years.

Scientific instruments showed that the gas had reached an average daily level above 400 parts per million — just an odometer moment in one sense, but also a sobering reminder that decades of efforts to bring human-produced emissions under control are faltering.

The best available evidence suggests the amount of the gas in the air has not been this high for at least three million years, before humans evolved, and scientists believe the rise portends large changes in the climate and the level of the sea.

“It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” said Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that reported the new reading.

Ralph Keeling, who runs another monitoring program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, said a continuing rise could be catastrophic. “It means we are quickly losing the possibility of keeping the climate below what people thought were possibly tolerable thresholds,” he said.

Virtually every automobile ride, every plane trip and, in most places, every flip of a light switch adds carbon dioxide to the air, and relatively little money is being spent to find and deploy alternative technologies.

China is now the largest emitter, but Americans have been consuming fossil fuels extensively for far longer, and experts say the United States is more responsible than any other nation for the high level.

The new measurement came from analyzers atop Mauna Loa, the volcano on the big island of Hawaii that has long been ground zero for monitoring the worldwide trend on carbon dioxide, or CO2. Devices there sample clean, crisp air that has blown thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean, producing a record of rising carbon dioxide levels that has been closely tracked for half a century.

Carbon dioxide above 400 parts per million was first seen in the Arctic last year, and had also spiked above that level in hourly readings at Mauna Loa.

But the average reading for an entire day surpassed that level at Mauna Loa for the first time in the 24 hours that ended at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Thursday. The two monitoring programs use slightly different protocols; NOAA reported an average for the period of 400.03 parts per million, while Scripps reported 400.08.

Carbon dioxide rises and falls on a seasonal cycle, and the level will dip below 400 this summer as leaf growth in the Northern Hemisphere pulls about 10 billion tons of carbon out of the air. But experts say that will be a brief reprieve — the moment is approaching when no measurement of the ambient air anywhere on earth, in any season, will produce a reading below 400.

“It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” said Maureen E. Raymo, a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a unit of Columbia University.

From studying air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice, scientists know that going back 800,000 years, the carbon dioxide level oscillated in a tight band, from about 180 parts per million in the depths of ice ages to about 280 during the warm periods between. The evidence shows that global temperatures and CO2 levels are tightly linked.

For the entire period of human civilization, roughly 8,000 years, the carbon dioxide level was relatively stable near that upper bound. But the burning of fossil fuels has caused a 41 percent increase in the heat-trapping gas since the Industrial Revolution, a mere geological instant, and scientists say the climate is beginning to react, though they expect far larger changes in the future.

Indirect measurements suggest that the last time the carbon dioxide level was this high was at least three million years ago, during an epoch called the Pliocene. Geological research shows that the climate then was far warmer than today, the world’s ice caps were smaller, and the sea level might have been as much as 60 or 80 feet higher.

Experts fear that humanity may be precipitating a return to such conditions — except this time, billions of people are in harm’s way.

“It takes a long time to melt ice, but we’re doing it,” Dr. Keeling said. “It’s scary.”

Dr. Keeling’s father, Charles David Keeling, began carbon dioxide measurements on Mauna Loa and at other locations in the late 1950s. The elder Dr. Keeling found a level in the air then of about 315 parts per million — meaning that if a person had filled a million quart jars with air, about 315 quart jars of carbon dioxide would have been mixed in.

His analysis revealed a relentless, long-term increase superimposed on the seasonal cycle, a trend that was dubbed the Keeling Curve.

Countries have adopted an official target to limit the damage from global warming, with 450 parts per million seen as the maximum level compatible with that goal. “Unless things slow down, we’ll probably get there in well under 25 years,” Ralph Keeling said.

Yet many countries, including China and the United States, have refused to adopt binding national targets. Scientists say that unless far greater efforts are made soon, the goal of limiting the warming will become impossible without severe economic disruption.

“If you start turning the Titanic long before you hit the iceberg, you can go clear without even spilling a drink of a passenger on deck,” said Richard B. Alley, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University. “If you wait until you’re really close, spilling a lot of drinks is the best you can hope for.”

Climate-change contrarians, who have little scientific credibility but are politically influential in Washington, point out that carbon dioxide represents only a tiny fraction of the air — as of Thursday’s reading, exactly 0.04 percent. “The CO2 levels in the atmosphere are rather undramatic,” a Republican congressman from California, Dana Rohrabacher, said in a Congressional hearing several years ago.

But climate scientists reject that argument, saying it is like claiming that a tiny bit of arsenic or cobra venom cannot have much effect. Research shows that even at such low levels, carbon dioxide is potent at trapping heat near the surface of the earth.

“If you’re looking to stave off climate perturbations that I don’t believe our culture is ready to adapt to, then significant reductions in CO2 emissions have to occur right away,” said Mark Pagani, a Yale geochemist who studies climates of the past. “I feel like the time to do something was yesterday.”

 ***************************************************

In ‘March Toward Disaster,’ World Hits 400 PPM Milestone

Published on Friday, May 10, 2013 by Common Dreams

Levels of atmospheric CO2 have never been this high in human history; will ‘rise in carbon be matched by rise in climate activism’? – Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams

We did it, and it’s nothing to cheer about.

The world hit the “sobering milestone” of 400 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 on Thursday—a first in human history—marking “a moment of symbolic significance on road of idiocy” the world has chosen, as well as a call for urgent climate action. 

Reaching this level represents a global failure to address the runaway greenhouse gas emissions; as Al Gore wrote today, it shows “we are reaping the consequences of our recklessness.”

Hitting 400 ppm “symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the New York Times.

And if you’re experiencing a sense of doom that we’ve reached a level of CO2 the Earth hasn’t seen for at least three million years, you’re not alone.

“It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” Maureen E. Raymo, a Columbia University earth scientist, warned.

At the Guardian, George Monbiot slams the 400 ppm mark as “a moment of symbolic significance on road of idiocy.” He writes:

The problem is simply stated: the power of the fossil fuel companies is too great. Among those who seek and obtain high office are people characterised by a complete absence of empathy or scruples, who will take money or instructions from any corporation or billionaire who offers them, and then defend those interests against the current and future prospects of humanity.

This new climate milestone reflects a profound failure of politics, in whichdemocracy has quietly been supplanted by plutocracy. Without a widespread reform of campaign finance, lobbying and influence-peddling and the systematic corruption they promote, our chances of preventing climate breakdown are close to zero.

So here stands our political class at a waystation along the road of idiocy, apparently determined only to complete the journey.

Climate change movement 350.org, which has campaigned around 350 ppm being the safe upper limit for atmospheric CO2, created a website to reflect on what this alarming new milestone means, and how we can move forward.

On the site, Payal Parekh, coordinator for Global Power Shift, calls “Crossing the 400 ppm threshold […] a somber reminder that we haven’t taken the action we need. Nevertheless there is good reason for hope—activists all across the globe are fighting the fossil fuel industry and demanding clean, just and affordable solutions to our energy needs.”

Also urging climate action is 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, who writes that “The only question now is whether the relentless rise in carbon can be matched by a relentless rise in the activism necessary to stop it.”

If we don’t get off this fast-moving greenhouse gas train, Scripps geochemist Ralph Keeling warned weeks ago, we’re on track to “hit 450 ppm within a few decades.”

___________________________

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Plant-for-the-Planet Global Boards need Youth Candidates from the U.S.A.

How would you like to be a leader in a democratic global youth organization that has begun transforming the planet one tree at a time? Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?kinderboard_2012neu

You have to be old enough: 8 years old and under 21. If you are 7 and a 1/2 you’ll just have to wait a little while. And you have to be elected. Candidates from North America  are sought for the Youth Board, ages 15 – 21.

Here’s an invitation from the Secretariat in Germany. Please pass this along:

Dear students, teachers and supporters of the Plant-for-the-Planet Initiative,

Apply now to become member of the new Global Boards 2013/14. The online-voting for the new Plant-for-the-Planet Global Boards 2013/14 starts on 27th March!

  • ·         Do you want to deepen your involvement with Plant-for-the-Planet?
  • ·         Do you want to take extensive action to fight the climate crisis?
  • ·         Do you want to inspire children worldwide and represent their interests?

Then apply for the Plant-for-the-Planet Global Boards 2013/2014!

Again, there will be two Global Boards: one for the Children’s Initiative, for children aged from 8 to 14 and one for the Youth Initiative, for young people aged from 15 to 21 years. Together they will represent the Plant-for-the-Planet Initiative, which invites everyone around the world to become a member.

In each of the Global Boards there will be 14 members who represent 7 different world regions. You can be a part of it too. Exchange ideas and opinions with people from around the world and help to take Plant-for-the-Planet into the future!

Requirements:

  • trained Climate Justice Ambassador or high level of motivation to lobby for climate justice
  • joy in inspiring children and youth
  • aged between 8 to 14 (children’s Global Board) or from 15 to 21 years (youth Global Board) as of the 1st July 2013
  • availability between the 1st of July 2013 and 30th of June 2014 for the monthly board meetings of the Global Board via the Internet
  • good English skills to participate actively in the monthly sessions of the Global Board (per Internet)
  • one adult coordinator (e.g. a parent) if you are a minor

You have until 22th March 2013 to apply to sit on one of the Global Boards. The candidates be presented on our website, if possible with a video message.  The elections will start on 27th March 2013 online. Every Plant-for-the-Planet member with voting rights has until 19th April 2013 to register their online votes for each of the Global Boards. From these elected board members, the Global Presidents and Vice-Global Presidents will be elected. They are voted for in a second round of voting from 20-27th April 2013.

The new Presidents and Vice-Presidents will be presented at the Plant-for-the-Planet Annual Meeting in Munich. The handover from the old Global Boards to the new takes place in June, and the new Global Board takes office on 1st July 2013.

Apply here online as candidate for the Global Boards

or send us an email with your name and date of birthmembers@plant-for-the-planet.org

The current Global Board members can be seen here.

It would be great if you could forward this invitation to interested students. Thanks a lot!

Best regards!

Pascale Sarah

for the Plant-for-the-Planet Secretariat

Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation

Lindemannstr. 13

82327 Tutzing – Germany

Tel. ++49 (0) 8808 9345

Fax. ++49 (0) 8808 9346

http://www.plant-for-the-planet.org

If you are interested or know a youth who would like to be on the board, please contact me or Plant For The Planet now. I’ll be happy to share more information.

Learn more about the Global Board and how to become a candidate on the “Structure” page at:

http://www.plant-for-the-planet.org/en/about-us/structure/global-board