“Are You Here to Save Face — or Save Us?”: Brittany Trilford, 17, Addresses World Leaders at Rio+20

(video)

(2012 U.N. Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

My name is Brittany Trilford. I’m 17 years old. I’m a child. Today, in this moment, I’m all children, your children, the world’s three billion children. Think of me 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 today 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, to ensure clean water and food security. Multinational 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 we are 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. Tick, tick, tick.

Let us think back 20 years ago, well before I was even an inkling in my parents’ eyes. Think back here to Rio, where people met at the first Earth Summit in 1992. The people at the summit knew there needed to be change. All our systems were failing, collapsing all around us. And these people came together to acknowledge these challenges, to work for something better, to 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 there is 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 and change.

We, the next generation, demand change, demand action, so that we can have a future. We trust you, in the next 72 hours, to put our interests before all other interests and boldly do the right thing. I am here to fight for my future. That’s why I’m here. And I would like to end today 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? Thank you.