Seventeen-year-old Brittany Trilford, a student from Wellington, New Zealand, addressed Heads of State gathered in Rio
de Janeiro at the opening of the Summit UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has called “one of the most important
conferences in the history of the United Nations and a once-in-a-generation opportunity to gear the world on sustainable
The Summit was opened by the Secretary-General at 10h00 local Rio time, in the wake of six months of negotiations that
have resulted in weak and disappointing text for Leaders to consider at the conference. First on the agenda was a film
entitled “The State of the Planet”, following which Brittany was called to the podium to deliver her address as an
ordinary citizen, a voice of youth, demanding action on sustainability.
During the opening of her three minute address Brittany told leaders, “I stand here with fire in my heart. I’m confused
and angry at the state of the world. We are here to solve the problems that we have caused as a collective, to ensure
that we have a future.”
In the hope that the high level Summit will make more ambitious commitments than the negotiated text calls for, Brittany
said, “We, the next generation, demand change. We demand action so that we have a future and have it guaranteed. We
trust that you will, in the next 72 hours, put our interests ahead of all other interests and boldly do the right
She challenged leaders to strive for solutions that will inspire hope around the world. “I am here to fight for my
future. That is why I’m here. I would like to end by asking you to consider why you are here and what you can do here. I
would like you to ask yourselves: Are you here to save face? Or are you here to save us?”
A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
In addition to addressing world leaders, Brittany has already silenced large gatherings of decision makers, including
over 300 legislators here in Rio from around the world at the first Global Legislators Forum on June 16 and over 1,000
business leaders at the closing plenary of the Corporate Sustainability Forum on June 17. She will participate in a
panel discussion on June 21 at the Global Town Hall and will ring the Peace Bell that same day at the Federation of
World Peace and Love with Severn Suzuki, known as “the girl who silenced the world” since addressing leaders in a
similar way at the 1992 Earth Summit.
Kelly Rigg, Executive Director of Global Campaign for Climate Action, organizers of the contest says “With youth
accounting for 3 billion of the world’s population, it is critical that young people from all walks of life are engaged
in influencing global decision-making on sustainability now – they will live with the building blocks or the broken
promises, depending on the choices leaders make.”
Transcript of Brittany Trilford’s speech at the opening of the UN Rio+20 Earth Summit
Tena Koutou from New Zealand. My name is Brittany Trilford. I am seventeen years old, a child. Today, in this moment, I
am all children, your children, the world’s three billion children. Think of me for these short minutes as half the
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 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, ensure clean water and food security. Multi-national 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 is 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… tck tck tck.
Let us think back to twenty years ago – well before I was even an inkling in my parents’ eyes – back to here, to Rio,
where people met at the first Earth Summit in 1992. People at this Summit knew there needed to be change. All of our
systems were failing and collapsing around us. These people came together to acknowledge these challenges to work for
something better, 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 is the 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,
We, the next generation, demand change. We demand action so that we have a future and have it guaranteed. We trust that
you will, in the next 72 hours, put our interests ahead of all other interests and boldly do the right thing. Please,
lead. I want leaders who lead.
I am here to fight for my future. That is why I’m here. I would like to end 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?
Earlier: Brittany Trilford addresses the UN Global Compact Corporate Sustainabiity Forum