Severn Cullis-Suzuki has been speaking up for what she believes since she was small. At age 9, she started the Environmental Children’s Organization, a group of friends committed to learning and teaching other kids about environmental issues. They were successful in fundraising and organizing to attend the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, where 12-year-old Severn delivered a powerful speech that garnered worldwide attention. For this she received the UN Environment Program’s Global 500 Award in Beijing the following year. This speech is still having an impact today, as citizens worldwide are still watching it on YouTube.
Since then Severn has continued as an advocate for intergenerational justice, fighting for long term sustainability, and for awareness of the fundamental interconnection between culture and environment. She is proud of her work as an Earth Charter Commissioner (www.earthcharterinaction.org). In 2000, she and five friends carried out Powershift – a cross-Canada cycling campaign to raise awareness about climate change and air pollution. In 2001, with fellow students at Yale University, she developed ‘the Skyfish Project’, a youth think-tank that brought their ‘Recognition of Responsibility’ to the 2002 UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she was on the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s Special Advisory Panel. The trip was the subject of a documentary film that aired on CBC’s long-running documentary series The Nature of Things.
Severn believes that science is important for informing global change, and it must be coupled with media and communication. She received a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Yale University, and a Masters of Science in Ethnoecology from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, where she studied with Kwakwaka’wakw elders on the Pacific Northwest coast. She has completed several speaking tours in Japan with the Namakemono Club and published several books including The Day You Will Change the World (Gakuyo Shobo, 2003), now in its 19th printing. She is one of the authors and editors of the book Notes from Canada’s Young Activists (Greystone Books 2007). As a youth Severn co-hosted a TV series in North America for children called Suzuki’s NatureQuest, and currently hosts the APTN series Samaqan – Water Stories about First Nations and water issues, heading into its third season.
Severn lives on the Pacific Westcoast archipelago of Haida Gwaii, where she lives in Skidegate with her husband and little boy and where she studies the Haida language. She is a board member of the David Suzuki Foundation and the Haida Gwaii Higher Education Society, a Spark for the Girls Action Foundation, and a Champion for WE CANada at the Earth Summit 2012. She hopes her pursuit of traditional and scientific knowledge and dedication to using her voice will help her promote a culture of diversity, sustainability and joy.