Youth Battle Government Inaction in New Documentary

Youth Battle Government Inaction in New Documentary

The film explores the lives and legal case of a group suing the federal government over climate change.

Sonja L. Cohen
Levi (14) looks to the viewer during climate protest.
© 2019 Robin Loznak / Youth v Gov


You don’t need to have kids to feel choked up watching YOUTH v GOV.

The 2020 documentary tells the story of Juliana v. United States, a landmark piece of climate litigation brought by a determined group of young plaintiffs suing the federal government over climate inaction.

Levi Draheim, a 14-year-old Unitarian Universalist from Florida, is the youngest plaintiff in the case and appears throughout the documentary. (Read a profile of Draheim in our Summer 2018 issue and in the Summer 2019 Families section.)

The film presents Draheim and the twenty other plaintiffs, a culturally diverse group of Indigenous, Black, white, biracial, and LGBTQ+ youth from across the country who have seen firsthand the disrupting effects of climate change. It documents their years-long effort to bring the case to trial, lays out the legal argument at its core, details decades of climate inaction by the U.S. government, and shows why the plaintiffs chose to sue.

But the more intimate footage also serves as a reminder—both inspiring and heartbreaking—that these are children who felt compelled to take on this herculean fight because their government has failed again and again to protect them.

"We’re never going to give up until we get climate action."

First filed in U.S. District Court in 2015, Juliana v. United States suffered a major setback in 2020 when a federal appeals court “reluctantly concluded” that it was beyond judicial authority to order the plaintiffs’ request. As of June 2022, the attorneys and plaintiffs were awaiting a ruling on their request to amend their original complaint. Despite the setback, “We’re never going to give up until we get climate action,” Draheim says to a crowd of young activists in a scene near the end.

YOUTH v. GOV is available on Netflix; information about educational and community screenings is available at