Peering out of a window, Samir Chowdhury ’25 vividly imagined Bangladesh’s magic-like natural elements: the terraced rice fields that waved with the wind and the serpentine rivers that cut through luxurious mangrove forests. But the eight-year-old boy’s gaze quickly drifted back to reality — rather than the paradisiacal escape he anticipated, he instead saw the bleak undertone of the Bangladeshi landscape engulfed in low smog clouds. Bangladesh was not at all what he had dreamed of.
Ten years have passed since now 18-year-old climate activist and frosh Samir Chowdhury ’25 first traveled from his home in Virginia to his home country, Bangladesh. For Chowdhury, the visit was transformative — he could not help but notice the devastating consequences of the climate crisis as he watched his Bangladeshi relatives wrestle with its disproportionate impact.
Now, Chowdhury leads the Youth Climate Action Team (YCAT), a global Gen Z grassroots organization based in the Washington D.C. and Virginia area. The organization, which he founded in 2020, connects adolescents from across the world through their shared interest in climate activism. Members participate in lobbying efforts and apply their own passions in an effort to combat the climate crisis.
“Climate change is an issue that directly impacts our future and it is already impacting us today,” Chowdhury said. Political lobbying, he added, is central to his organization’s mission because he believes it to be one of the most effective forms of climate activism.
“When COVID struck, climate organizers found themselves in a really tough spot,” Chowdhury said. “And I wanted to ensure that we could sustain 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 students from around the world together to discuss climate-related issues at the forefront of the pandemic. Following their first initiative, the rest was history.
“Month by month, we expanded to new initiatives and really exponentially grew,” Chowdhury said. YCAT now consists of members from more than 18 countries across five continents.
Rising Yale University frosh Nastaran Moghimi, who worked closely with Chowdhury during the development of YCAT, said the organization focuses on mobilizing marginalized groups that are not traditionally given a voice in the climate movement.
Moghimi, YCAT’s logistics director, also characterized Chowdhury as an individual who approaches the climate crisis with positive persistence.
“Climate anxiety is real and his attitude is awesome,” Moghimi said. “I’m very inspired by him every day.”
Through YCAT, Chowdhury has connected thousands of young people who have had the opportunity to engage in a variety of activities for the organization, including social media, finance, operations, communication, logistics, global affairs and press.
YCAT is currently spearheading the establishment of a nationwide equitable climate program that will provide climate education to elementary and middle school students. Another initiative the organization is working on is a social justice display at local libraries to promote the learning of climate-related issues among youth.
Camila Amaya, YCAT’s climate education director and a rising junior at Hylton High School in Prince William County, Virginia, credits Chowdhury with much of the organization’s success.
“He is very compassionate and authentic to what he cares about,” she said of Chowdhury. “He has done an amazing job of making sure that his organization is well taken care of and working with him inspires you to partake in something that matters to everyone.”
Chowdhury’s passion for environmental advocacy has propelled him to establish a climate justice task force in his school district, speak at the Harvard Institute of Politics’ Earth Day celebration and even be chosen as the State Infrastructure Director for Virginia’s Youth Climate Cooperative.
As fall quarter approaches, he is looking forward to his time at Stanford, where he plans to double major in engineering and public policy with a focus on intersectional environmental science.
“Being in California will open up so many avenues for me,” Chowdhury said.
Stanford’s environmental science program will allow Chowdhury to take advantage of many climate change-related resources, such as the Woods Institute, a program dedicated to connecting environmental scientists with policymakers.
Chowdhury said that he hopes to contribute to the effort 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 combat the wildfires and other climate calamities that plague California.
Above all, Chowdhury hopes to empower youth to push for action and lobby policymakers.
“The climate crisis is the greatest existential threat to our generation and we are dependent on others when we should be taking action ourselves,” he said. ”We have seven years left until it will be irreversible. It is dictating our entire future.”