Looking out of a window, Samir Chowdhury ’25 forcefully imagined the magical natural elements of Bangladesh: wind-churned rice terraces and meandering rivers that flow through lush mangrove forests. But the eight-year-old’s gaze quickly returned to reality – rather than the paradisiacal escape he had anticipated, instead he saw the grim shade of the Bangladeshi landscape engulfed in faint clouds of smog. Bangladesh was not at all what he had dreamed of.
Ten years have passed since Samir Chowdhury ’25, an 18-year-old climate activist, first traveled from his home in Virginia to his home country of Bangladesh. For Chowdhury, the visit was transformative – he couldn’t help but notice the devastating consequences of the climate crisis as he watched his Bangladeshi relatives fight its disproportionate impact.
Today, Chowdhury heads the Youth Climate Action Team (YCAT), a global grassroots Gen Z organization based in the Washington DC and Virginia area. The organization, which he founded in 2020, connects teens around the world through their shared interest in climate activism. Members participate in lobbying efforts and apply their own passions to tackle the climate crisis.
âClimate change is a problem that has a direct impact on our future and it is already impacting us today,â said Chowdhury. Political lobbying, he added, is at the heart of his organization’s mission because he believes it is one of the most effective forms of climate activism.
âWhen COVID hit, climate organizers found themselves in a very difficult situation,â Chowdhury said. âAnd I wanted to make sure we could support climate activism throughout the pandemic. ”
YCAT’s first initiative highlighted the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of climate change. The organization worked with the United Nations Environment Program on an international initiative to bring together students from around the world to discuss climate-related issues at the forefront of the pandemic. After their first initiative, the rest was history.
âMonth after month, we have expanded to new initiatives and have seen truly exponential growth,â said Chowdhury. YCAT now consists of members from more than 18 countries on five continents.
Nastaran Moghimi, who worked closely with Chowdhury during the development of YCAT, said the organization is focused on mobilizing marginalized groups who traditionally lack a voice in the climate movement.
Moghimi, director of logistics for YCAT, also called Chowdhury an individual who approaches the climate crisis with positive persistence.
âClimate anxiety is real and his attitude is great,â Moghimi said. âI am very inspired by him every day.
Through YCAT, Chowdhury has connected thousands of young people who have had the opportunity to engage in various activities for the organization including social media, finance, operations, communication, logistics, business global organizations and the press.
YCAT is currently spearheading the establishment of a nationwide climate fair program that will provide climate education to elementary and secondary school students. Another initiative the organization is working on is a social justice exhibit in local libraries to promote learning about climate issues among young people.
Camila Amaya, director of climate education for YCAT and a rising junior at Hylton High School in Prince William County, Va., Credits Chowdhury with much of the organization’s success.
âHe is very compassionate and genuine towards what interests him,â she said of Chowdhury. “He has done an amazing job making sure his organization is well taken care of and working with him inspires you to be part of something that matters to everyone.”
Chowdhury’s passion for advocating for the environment prompted him to create a climate justice task force in his school district, to speak at the Earth Day celebration of the Institute of Politics of Harvard and even to be chosen as the director of state infrastructure for the Virginia Youth Climate Co-operative.
As the fall term approaches, he looks forward to his stint at Stanford, where he plans to double his engineering and public policy major with an emphasis on intersectional environmental sciences.
âBeing in California will open up so many possibilities for me,â said Chowdhury.
Stanford’s environmental science program will allow Chowdhury to tap into many resources related to climate change, such as the Woods Institute, a program dedicated to connecting environmental scientists with decision-makers.
Chowdhury said he hoped to contribute to efforts to stop Stanford from investing in fossil fuels, help implement effective climate policy statewide, and work with the soon-to-be-established Civilian Climate Corps to fight forest fires and other climatic calamities afflicting California.
Above all, Chowdhury hopes to empower young people to push for action and put pressure on decision-makers.
âThe climate crisis is the greatest existential threat to our generation and we depend on others when we should act on our own,â he said. âWe have seven years left before this is irreversible. It dictates our whole future.