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Global Ideas

Christi Cooper's Youth v Gov, from activism to groundbreaking lawsuit

Can children take the most powerful government in the world to court over their right to a healthy planet and expect to win? Filmmaker Christi Cooper is documenting an unprecedented lawsuit.

Jugendliche gegen die Regierung / Bilder von der Verhandlung im September 2015 (Danny Schmidt)

Children protest agains the U.S. government for not taking adequate climate action

Name: Christi Cooper
Occupation: Science communicator/filmmaker
Project: Youth v Gov

Six years ago, Christi Cooper came across a story that gripped her. It was the tale of young activists, then aged between nine and 20, who were taking legal action across the US to try and secure the right to a healthy environment for their own and future generations.

She began documenting the lives of the 21 youngsters, whose efforts culminated in 2015 in the groundbreaking David vs. Goliath-style lawsuit known as Juliana et al v. United States of America et al.

The plaintiffs contend that US policy makers are not acting in a way that is consistent with risks posed by the prospect of rising sea levels, extreme weather events and civil unrest, if greenhouse gas emissions remained unchecked.

In the film, which is called Youth v Gov, Cooper shows the ongoing process from the perspective of the plaintiffs, simultaneously documenting how, from drought to reduced snowfall, flooding and contaminated oceans, climate change is impacting the country.

"I feel this is a really compelling story, regardless of what the outcome is, because it shows democracy in action," Cooper said.

In a first hearing for a motion to dismiss the case, the judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on all counts. The second hearing produced the same outcome. The trial will take place towards the end of 2017.

It may take years to wind its way through the legal system. But her goal is to capture the voices of a generation not yet old enough to vote, but who will nonetheless inherit our climate legacy.

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