Home > What Could Possibly Go Right? Interview Series > Episode 6: Severn Cullis-Suzuki: Building Love for Future Generations

July 9, 2020

In today’s episode, Severn Cullis-Suzuki gives her perspective that spans from addressing the UN at age 12 through to her life-long activism for environment and indigenous rights. Her insights include:

  • The serendipity that led to speaking at the UN’s Earth Summit in 1992 and the impact of this message that went viral.
  • The disconnect between what we value as individuals and what our society upholds.
  • The care of earth and its natural systems as fundamental to indigenous values.
  • The opportunity within this current moment of global humility for mainstream society to learn from ancient cultures who’ve survived and can show us the way.

About Severn Cullis-Suzuki

Severn has been an activist for intergenerational justice her whole life – justice for future generations.  Deeply concerned about the environment as a child, she started the Environmental Children’s Organization with friends in grade five, which culminated a few years later in a speech to the UN Earth Summit in 1992 at age 12.  The speech is still making the rounds as “the girl who silenced the world for 5 minutes.”  Severn continued to advocate for future generations, traveling extensively to speak out about the legacy of our destructive time, and about returning to our deepest human values, and human scales.  As a teenager she was appointed to the Earth Charter Commission, and is very proud of the principles of the Earth Charter – a universal set of guidelines for human conduct with respect to the planet (earthcharter.org). She continues today as on the Earth Charter International Council. 

While studying Evolutionary Biology at Yale University, Severn spearheaded Powershift 2000, a cycling trip across Canada for clean air and climate change awareness, and the Recognition of Responsibility pledge – which she brought to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg 2002, where she was a special advisor to the Secretary General. Ten years later, Severn returned to Rio once again for the UN Rio+20 conference, as a Champion for youth group ‘We Canada,’ in 2012. Severn has collaborated with the Sloth Club in Japan on four speaking tours focusing on the Slow movement, and the post-Fukushima Million Mothers Movement, driven by mothers who refuse nuclear power.  Severn is an Action Canada Fellow (‘04-‘05), and co-editor for the book Notes from Canada’s Young Activists (Greystone books, 2007).  Severn was a Board member of the David Suzuki Foundation for 14 years, and was a founding member of the Haida Gwaii Higher Education Society. 

Severn believes very much using media to communicate, collaborating with filmmakers in several documentaries including Jean Paul Jaud’s film Severn: La Voix de Nos Enfants, as well as hosting the TV show Suzuki’s NatureQuest, and the water-focused TV series Samaqan: Water Stories, for four seasons on Canada’s Aboriginal People’s Television Network (APTN). 

Today Severn’s focus is the nexus of decline in diversity of biodiversity, worldviews, economies, language, traditional knowledge and identity.  She holds an M.Sc. in Ethnoecology from the University of Victoria, and is currently a Vanier and Public scholar PhD candidate studying endangered language revitalization.  Severn lives on the archipelago of Haida Gwaii off the coast of British Columbia, with her husband Judson Brown and their two sons.


Download the transcript here.