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The Youths Are Alright

Brown v Board of Education, Loving v Virginia, Obergefell v Hodges, these are the names of some of the most famous and consequential court cases in United States history. They all have something in common too. In each, the plaintiffs asked the courts to recognize a right in the Constitution that was not previously recognized.

Youth v Gov., a documentary released on Friday on Netflix, is the story of another such case. It documents the struggle of the 21 youth plaintiffs who sued the United State arguing that the government has violated their constitutional right to a stable climate. To quote their lead attorney, Julia Olson, “Liberty and Justice cannot exist if we have a destabilized climate system.”

The 21 youth plaintiffs come from every corner of the United States and reflect the diversity of our nation. And yet, they have one striking thing in common. They are all already experiencing the harmful effects of climate change. Whether it’s Levi, a young boy from Florida who has already experienced several hurricanes and whose home is projected to be underwater by the end of the century, or Jamie, a member of the Navajo Nation who had to leave her home due to drought, they each have a powerful story about the impacts of climate change.

Despite this theoretically being a legal documentary, the youth are the real stars of the show. Their joyous cries and disappointed moans as the case works its way through a byzantine legal process lend emotion to a story that could easily be boring if told in the wrong way. While at the same time, the documentary does an excellent job of explaining the case against the US government whose actions have directly accelerated the climate crisis. By the end of the movie, I was thoroughly convinced that we do have a right to a stable climate and that those kids deserve better than what our government has left them.


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