Youth v Gov is a rallying cry to the younger generation and all generations to stand up and fight as we battle the climate crisis. Cristi Cooper shows us that if these teenagers can do it, why can’t you? An invigorating and engaging documentary, this should spark a new wave of activism for those who see it.
Youth v Gov is the story of twenty-one young Americans suing the US government, armed with a wealth of evidence to prove that it wilfully acted over six decades to create the climate crisis. If they are successful, they will not only make history, but they will also change the future.
Youth v Gov strikes most because this group has had to take this route in their young lives because of how affected they have been by the climate crisis. They haven’t been mildly inconvenienced; they have had their lives turned upside down, and director Christi Cooper makes sure to show us this fact. These are young people whose lives have been so negatively impacted by the lack of effort from their own government that they have been left with no other decision but to take them to court with Julia Olson. Drought’s, wildfires, floods, hurricanes, you name it, and this group of people have been through it, and Cooper makes sure to project their anger and dismay at being effectively forgotten about.
By going through each of the plaintiff’s experiences, we can get a good sense of them as people (and by chance, they are some excellent young people) but, more importantly, learn their story and how they feel they have been failed. Then we take a chronological approach as we go through all their twists and turns in their legal fight with the US government. It is a smart decision to take us through their journey in this way as we can root for them and also see the way that the government tries to get out of each situation, and boy, do they try their sneaky best to get this case thrown out in Youth v Gov.
Though not a similar case, the government’s actions throughout, as they repeatedly try to get the case dismissed, remind of the fantastic Minamata Mandala. The government know they have done their citizens wrong yet will do everything and at any cost to make sure that they do not have to feel any retribution for it.
Youth v Gov struggles at times with how long it is with it dragging at times as, unlike the Minamata case, there has not been quite enough to carry it through its runtime. Wisely Cooper has added in the history of how the US Government has failed the population, but with a rinse and repeat circumstance with the court proceedings, the momentum is never fully there. The issue of spreading itself out just too much happens here as well. As said, we get the history of what each president said they were going to do and what they eventually did to contradict those election promises. That section alone would be an utterly fascinating feature documentary.
As we near the end of the documentary, we are left in no doubt at the ability of those young people to help influence others their age and future generations to come in making sure that this world can be in as healthy a place as possible. Youth v Gov isn’t necessarily about that specific battle. It is more a calling out to all those who watch it to feel energised and fight along with these young people and Julia Olsen, no matter where you are in the world. There is something worth fighting for on your doorstep, and if you do that and at least try to make our governments see the right way, then that is as good a start as any.
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