Review: Youth show social conscience beyond their years |

Review: Youth show social conscience beyond their years

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a four part series of reviews for films in the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, Jan. 10-13, in Nevada City and Grass Valley.

“Stories of Trust” represents quintessential Wild and Scenic Film Festival. Five short films strike resonating chords. Portraits of activist youth address dire global climate change with sober, optimistic spirit. They express their family and community sense, their commitment and leadership. They express an engaging kind of naiveté and a promising amount of humanist sophistication.

In the Colorado segment, thriving pine beetle populations indicate warmer winters, too many dead trees and heightened fire hazard.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, says, “I first started getting involved with climate change when I was 6. I was young, so I didn’t understand everything.”

She communicates considerable understanding at age 11 when she speaks after performing some activist hip hop.

“Our government has this thing called the public trust,” she explains. “They should understand what it means to protect our air, protect our water and to protect our future.”

In the Arizona segment, bringing water to the Navajo reservation of Jamie Lynn Butler, age 11, strains a subsistence budget on a desert ranch. After her sixth letter to President Obama ­— curiously, about the Arctic Wildlife Preserve — he wrote back, “Your generation will play an important role in meeting the challenges of the 21st century. You can accomplish great things and help others to do the same.”

In the Alaska segment, thawed permafrost and atypical river cycles erode the banks many feet per year. Only 40 feet remain between the river and Nelson Kanuk’s house. Nelson, age 16, harkens back to what his ancestors have long done. He speaks, with no hint of insufficiency, to his community’s subsistence lifestyle. Referring to salmon berries and seal and such, “You don’t have to go to the grocery store all the time.”

Meanwhile, this concerned young man participates in a youth leadership committee, law-enforcement cadet core and apprentice firefighting.

“Young Voices for the Planet” is another remarkable set of short, magazine-style inspirations.

Among them, two pieces highlight teen students driving sustainability activities in their schools and communities and in younger kids’ minds. Imagine students helping a school save tens of thousands of dollars. Imagine students going school to school. In a third segment, activism bumps up a notch when a teen campaign leads the city of Santa Monica to ban single-use plastic bags.

Bird-lover Olivia Bouler, age 11, thought she might raise $200 producing a series of paintings after the BP oil disaster. Reaching more than 100 million people in a viral Internet flare, she raised $200,000 dollars for the Audubon Society.

Media whirlwind Alec Loorz, age 16, has made videos and other presentations. He’s led marches. He’s planted dozens of cleverly iconic “iMatter” poles at the beach. They illustrate how climate could change the height of rising sea levels above our heads. Hundreds of thousands of kids signed his “Declaration of Independence from Fossil Fuels.”

The Felix Finkbeiner segment could blow your mind with world-changing cuteness. This 11-year-old German (speaking fluently in English, mind you) founded “Plant-for-the-Planet” at age 9. Inspired by Nobel Prize-winning activist Wangari Maathai, Finkbeiner has spurred millions of tree plantings.

Adult activism certainly has not been enough. It will not be enough. More and more kids are seeing and acting beyond their years.

Chuck Jaffee of Nevada City likes to plug people into the spirit of independent filmmakers. Find his other articles for The Union at

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