Rio+Social “6-Minute Speech” Unites World Vision for a Sustainable Future

Twenty Years After Her Original Speech At The Earth Summit In 1992, Severn Cullis-Suzuki Returned To Rio De Janeiro, Brazil And Delivered A Globally Crowdsourced Speech To Address The Future We Want.

Washington, D.C.

June 20, 2012


Alexis Krieg

Yesterday, Severn Cullis-Suzuki, an environmental activist, spoke to the world at Rio+Social, delivering a crowdsourced vision for a sustainable future. The speech was formulated through the “6-Minute Speech Project,” a platform for a worldwide dialogue around the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20, in support of the UN’s theme of “The Future We Want.”  The project empowered people all over the world to submit their vision of a more sustainable future.  The globally crowdsourced speech reflects the collective hopes and visions for a better world.

Rio+Social, held on the eve of the historic Rio+20 Summit, was a global, online conversation among corporate and digital media leaders, civil society, celebrities, and government representatives to share solutions for pressing global challenges such as access to energy, affordable health care, a clean and safe environment, and education.  The United Nations Foundation, Mashable, 92nd Street Y, Ericsson, Energias de Portugal (EDP), LiveAD, Planeta Sustentável, Virgin Unite, and United Postcode Lotteries, convened individuals from all walks of life and countries around the world both in person and online through Rio+Social.

The concept for the 6-Minute Speech comes from a speech given at the original 1992 Earth Summit in which Cullis-Suzuki, who at 12 years old expressed her concerns and hopes for the future of our planet and future generations. In her remarks, she called on leaders at the Summit to act on the world’s environmental and sustainability problems of the time.

Twenty years later, Cullis-Suzuki again spoke out in Rio, delivering a speech at Rio+Social on June 19, 2012, based on the hopes for the future of people around the globe.  The text of the speech, as delivered, is below:

“6-Minute Speech”

As Delivered by Severn Cullis-Suzuki at Rio+Social, June 19, 2012

Good evening, everyone.  It’s an absolute honor for me to be here, and to be delivering to you the six-minute speech that was written by you all over the world.

This moment is too important to stay quiet.  Leaders from every part of the world, from government, industry, and civil society are convening in Rio de Janeiro, right here, this week to discuss and make decisions about the kind of world we will live in and the kind of future we will leave the next generation.

Our voices matter in this discussion — and they make a difference.

Twenty years ago, Rio hosted the 1992 Earth Summit, which focused on the global environmental and sustainability problems of the time.

As a 12-year old girl, I flew to the summit from Canada to remind world leaders of what was truly at stake: the future of my generation and of all future generations to come.  I said to them, “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 will grow up in.”

 1992  2012

The 1992 Earth Summit focused the world’s attention on sustainable development. Today, the issues are even more serious.  They are even more relevant and urgent.  Pollution has changed our climate.  More than a billion people are living without electricity.  Children are still dying of preventable diseases, malnutrition, and simple dehydration.  Too many people are struggling to get by — living in poverty, often without safe drinking water or enough food.  At the same time, the one percent continues to get richer.  We can, we must, do better.

As the global community gathers for Rio+20, as the world’s delegates begin to arrive tonight, we again need committed citizens to speak out, to push for progress, to tell world leaders that we care about what is going on in Rio and beyond.  Two decades ago, I was one girl, speaking to one room.  Today, thanks to the revolution in technology and social media, each of us, each of you watching this, has a megaphone that carries and connects our voices in every part of the world.  We must use that megaphone to inspire a revolution of change.

In recent weeks, people from across the world have harnessed Twitter and social media to join the dialogue around Rio+20.  Individuals from Kenya to Russia to India to the United States and Brazil have shared their concerns about our present and about our shared future.

Their messages created a mosaic of a cleaner, healthier, and more vibrant future.  This is the future that the world wants.  A future:

  • Where we can all breathe clean air and drink clean water;
  • Where we have turned the tide against the pollution that threatens to swallow our oceans;
  • Where every person has access to electricity and the benefits that it brings;
  • Where we power the world with clean energy from the sun, the wind, and the soil;
  • We envision a world where the Earth’s natural treasures are protected and preserved;
  • Where no person goes hungry and poverty is a problem of the past;
  • Where all children get the nutrition they need, the education they deserve;
  • Where women and girls are empowered and human rights are respected;
  • Where preventable diseases don’t take the lives of children and childbirth complications don’t take the lives of their mothers;
  • Where health care isn’t a luxury to some, but available to all; and
  • Where every young person has the opportunity to work and every community has the opportunity to prosper.

We envision a world where our actions can reflect our words.  These aren’t platitudes or banalities — these are hopes, these are hopes for the future, based on expressions of people around the globe.

Building this future won’t be quick or easy, but it could be the most important thing that we can do.  While the challenges are big and complex, we have the solutions, we have them right now.

The world’s economic, social, and environmental problems are closely intertwined and require a comprehensive approach to create solutions.  And they require an understanding of the ecological reality of planet Earth as a baseline framework for the structures that emerge.

Rio+20 is the opportunity to move forward on a sustainable development agenda that protects the environment, that advances social equity; an agenda that embraces the definition of sustainable development as that which “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

This week, the United Nations has brought everyone to the table – government, the private sector, civil society, and concerned global citizens – to find ways to move forward.   Realizing the promise of a sustainable future will require innovation, collaboration, and of course, action.

Nations need to work with each other and the UN on global solutions, while also taking steps at home to encourage sustainable development.

Businesses need to embrace corporate responsibility and lead by example.

Civil society organizations need to become as efficient, creative, and effective as possible.

And individuals need to hold leaders accountable and get involved, whether it’s volunteering in their neighborhood or supporting the global initiatives. You don’t need a fancy title, huge sums of money to make a difference — you have a voice, now use it.

We all have a role to play in building a better world.  Those of us in this room, those of us participating online are on the front lines of the sustainable development movement in the 21st century.  We come from every walk of life, we come from every corner of the world, but we are united for our hope for a brighter tomorrow.

The stakes are high, the challenges are great, but progress is possible. Beyond possible, progress is necessary.  That’s why today can’t, today isn’t the end of this conversation.  History isn’t made by those who stand silent or by those who decide not to decide; it is made by those whose actions reflect their intentions.  It is up to each of us here to continue to speak out for the future we want.  And together, we are becoming a voice too loud to ignore.  Future generations are at stake.  We must seize this moment.  Thank you very much.

For more information on Rio+Social and the “6-Minute Speech Project”, visit


About Ericsson
Ericsson is the world’s leading provider of communications technology and services. We are enabling the Networked Society with efficient real-time solutions that allow us all to study, work and live our lives more freely, in sustainable societies around the world.  Our offering comprises services, software and infrastructure within Information and Communications Technology for telecom operators and other industries. Today more than 40 percent of the world’s mobile traffic goes through Ericsson networks, and we support customers’ networks servicing more than 2 billion subscribers.  We operate in 180 countries and employ more than 100,000 people. Founded in 1876, Ericsson is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2011, the company had revenues of SEK 226,9 billion (USD 35.0 billion). Ericsson is listed on NASDAQ OMX, Stockholm and NASDAQ, New York stock exchanges.

About EDP
EDP – Energias de Portugal – is a global energy company engaged in the electric utilities and gas sector.  EDP is the third largest producer of wind energy in the world and, for the second year running, is the world’s leader in the electricity sector of the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes.  EDP Group today serves as a benchmark in the global energy market, as a result of its solid vision for the company and the sector and also a philosophy of growing integration and the pursuit of excellence that is firmly rooted in the EDP culture.

About LiveAD
LiveAD is a creative agency that believes in the potential of relevant contemporary ideas, enlarging them through the integrated use of digital media and PR.  It is currently working with the following brands: Nike, Doritos, C&A, Grendene, Multishow, Lacoste, Itau, Ketel One, J&B and Baileys. LiveAD is a member of the Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA), a group made up of the world’s key digital agencies.  LiveAD has been recognized on Facebook Studio Awards in 2012, Cannes Lions Festival in 2009 and 2010 and 2011 SXSW Interactive finalist.

About Mashable
Mashable is a leading source for news, information and resources for the Connected Generation. Mashable reports on the importance of digital innovation and how it empowers and inspires people around the world. Mashable’s 20 million unique visitors and 6 million social media followers have become one of the most engaged online news communities.

About Planeta Sustentável
Planeta Sustentável generates information about sustainability in 38 magazines and dozens of websites, books, maps, large and small events, courses and apps. It was launched by Editora Abril, the largest publisher in Brazil, in 2007. It reaches 21 million readers across different age and social groups and is recognized as the most influential sustainable platform in the Portuguese language.

About United Nations Foundation
The United Nations Foundation builds public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and broadens support for the United Nations through advocacy and public outreach.  Through innovative campaigns and initiatives, the Foundation connects people, ideas, and resources to help the UN solve global problems. The Foundation was created in 1998 as a U.S. public charity by entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner and now is supported by global corporations, foundations, governments, and individuals.  For more information, visit

About the United Postcode Lotteries
The mission of the United Postcode Lotteries (Nationale Postcode Loterij in The Netherlands, Svenksa PostkodLotteriet in Sweden and People’s Postcode Lottery in the UK) is to raise funds for people and the planet. These charity lotteries have raised over 5 billion euros (about 6.5 billion USD) for charities.  The Postcode Lottery Green Challenge is the annual international sustainability competition of the United Postcode Lotteries. It encourages and aids the invention of great new green products and services by inviting entrepreneurs from around the world to send in their business plans from May 1 – July 31, 2012.  The winning idea will receive 500,000 euros (about 630,000 USD) plus expert advice bringing their entrepreneurial vision to reality. Another 200,000 euros (about 250,000 USD) is available to be divided among one or two of the other finalists.

About Virgin Unite
Virgin Unite connects people and entrepreneurial ideas to make change happen, revolutionize the way government, business and the social sector work together, and make business a force for good. With the publication of Richard Branson’s latest book, Screw Business as Usual, Virgin Unite launched a global effort among business leaders to promote a philosophy of putting people and planet at the center of business.

About 92nd Street Y
92nd Street Y is a world-class nonprofit community and cultural center that connects people at every stage of life to the worlds of education, the arts, health and wellness, and Jewish life. Through the breadth and depth of 92Y’s extraordinary programs, we enrich lives, create community and elevate humanity. More than 300,000 people visit 92Y’s New York City venues annually, and millions more join us through the internet, satellite broadcasts and other digital media. A proudly Jewish organization since its founding in 1874, 92Y embraces its heritage and enthusiastically welcomes people of all backgrounds and perspectives. 92Y is an open door to extraordinary worlds.