Changing the World As A Child

December 11, 2011

Political Theory

Severn Cullis- Suzuki was only 12-years old in 1992 when she addressed the United Nations at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. She was only 12- years old when she raised money for her and two other older women to travel from Canada to Brazil. She was only 12- years old when she silenced adult politicians, journalists, policy advisors, and translators. Her speech focused on the environment- pollution, the ozone layer, forest destruction, and animal extinction and critized the UN and the generation older than her for the large socioeconomic gap, the great number of starving children, and the pervasiveness of wars and human greed. Watch 12-year old Suzuki speak to the United Nations in 1992: I believe it relates to many lecture topics and authors’ ideas that we have read for class

Her mission then was to spur her listeners to action, to start a social movement. But, as we discussed on December 1st in lecture, should we protest? Should we start a social movement or should we just join one? How do we really make a . change?  Honestly, after listening in lecture, I’ve come to the conclusion that movements can really just be fleeting trends. We need to remember that, instead, we should come up with our own different and more unique ideas than what we have in the past. Do you agree? As a 12-year old, Suzuki was obviously relatively inexperienced, uneducated, and naive in comparison with those adults in the UN. Therefore, I think that she was very idealistic. And, as an idealist, she will not be able to change the world, in the eyes of Marx, who believes that only material changes can really transform our world. Rawls disagrees that applying utilitarianism, meaning the best advantage for the greatest number of people, a very idealic theory, can change the world. Rawls believes helping those who are least fortunate, like 12-year old Suzuki wants to do with the starving children in Africa, will be the most effective form of bringing about societal change. So, do you agree with 12-year old Suzuki that she can change the world being only idealistic? Or do you disagree with her simply because of her young age? Unfortunately, after reading the article,, I think that simply being idealistic is not enough, even though I used to.For instance, 10 years after Suzuki’s speech to the UN, nothing changed. Furthermore, even today, we face the same environmental and social problems. However, do you believe that Marx’s theory is correct or Rawl’s theory is correct in making social movements most effective?


Also, in a way, Suzuki’s criticism in her speech in 1992 related to collective action problems, which we have talked about in lecture before as well. Those working at the UN in 1992 could most likely help fix the problems that Suzuki posed then, however, due to their own desires they prioritized, the problem cannot be resolved ever. Tocqueville would agree that Americans own selfish desires are most important to them. Do you agree?

Furthermore, 12- year old Suzuki is very different from Ms. Suzuki now. Today, she realizes that one voice, like hers, cannot make people take action. In the “Two Treatises of Government,” Locke brings up the differences between belief, such as whether God exists or does not, and will, or an action. He thinks that only religion or the government military can force anyone to believe. And, Suzuki now would somewhat disagree, I think. Do you think so too? She would probably say that one can more easily force someone to believe, like that we should clean up our environment, but we also cannot force someone to take action, which she had a direct experience with after her UN speech and the absence of change afterwards.

Speaking at the UN in 1992

Do you think that, one day, our ability to urge people to take action will improve? Why can’t we do so today? Are there other, more effective ways to spur people to action now besides with one’s voice? What would people most likely respond to best? Is it possible to make people take action at all? Do you find this fact depressing or relatively normal?



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