The climate crisis is one of the most important and pressing issues facing society today. Solving it will require action from everyone and not just environmental organizations. That's why Youth Climate Action Team Inc. (YCAT) is working to fight climate change by bridging the gap between non-climate organizations and the climate movement through education, lobbying, research, and social media activism.
YCAT is an international youth-led nonprofit that was founded by high school senior Samir Chowdhury in May 2020. Since then, YCAT has grown to over 1,000 organizers from 9 different countries and has reached over 130,000 individuals through various environmental initiatives.
The Teen Magazine interviewed Samir about his work for YCAT, the importance of youth activism, and how teens can become involved with the climate movement.
Samir's cultural roots and personal experiences with climate change played a large role in the creation of YCAT. As a Bengali American, he experienced the devastating effects of the climate crisis in his native country from a very young age.
I was told by my relatives that Bangladesh was going to be so nice and sunny, but when I first got out of the airport, the first thing I noticed was that the sky was covered in smog, and there was so much air pollution. My relatives were also always worried about flooding, as Bangladesh is currently 33% underwater. That personal connection to climate change as a result of my heritage is what inspired me to take action and found YCAT.
Fighting Climate Change
Since its establishment, YCAT has hosted many town halls, workshops, and lobbying activities. For their first event, YCAT worked with the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme to hold a worldwide conference on COVID-19 and its implications on the environment. Other events have included phone and email banking for various bills, community discussions, and talks.
Along with events, YCAT also works on long-term initiatives. YCAT recently launched the Clean America Project, the first global teen-led energy study. The collected data will be used to lobby politicians for more clean energy policies throughout the country. Another continuous project is the Social Justice Literacy Initiative, which involves implementing more climate justice texts in libraries.
The Importance Of Youth Activism
A large way YCAT is combating the climate crisis is through activism. YCAT places a large emphasis on intersectionality and has partnered with other organizations to lobby for both environmental and non-environmental policies such as the Virginia Green New Deal Act and the New York State Health Act. Samir believes that these youth-led initiatives are necessary because of the unique position young people are in with regard to current issues.
I think that youth activism is especially important because we are going to be impacted by these issues when they truly escalate to the next level. According to a UN report, climate change will become irreversible in 2030. By that time, we'll be adults and will be the population that is most affected by climate change, not the people that are currently in the office making policies about it.
Samir also hopes that youth will be given a larger role in government overall. YCAT is part of YouthinGov, a national coalition that has drafted an executive order for more youth involvement in the executive branch. The proposal consists of creating a White House office of youth engagement, appointing a Director of Youth Engagement, and having more youth positions in government.
"It's so necessary for youth to be represented in government because we're the group that understands how all these social justice issues are intertwined. A lot of current policymakers don't understand intersectionality, so the youth perspective needs to be uplifted in our governmental affairs."
Samir describes YCAT as "the most gratifying experience of his entire life" because it has allowed him to meet such a vibrant group of motivated and committed youth. He has developed numerous friendships through his work at YCAT and has learned from the stories and ideas of other environmental activists.
Meeting so many people and fostering this community has unlocked a world of perspectives that I wouldn't have been able to digest if it weren't for YCAT.
In less than a year, YCAT has achieved high levels of success and has grown to a team of over 1,000 organizers. The organization has reached 130,000 people from all across the world, and Samir is beyond grateful for everyone that has helped him throughout this journey.
Starting this organization and having it blow up and having so many people support me during in the process as well is such a rewarding feeling.
Unlike other prominent grassroots environmental groups, YCAT aims to be more low-commitment and operates as a top-heavy organization. This allows even busy students the chance to become involved with the climate movement through less time-consuming opportunities.
A lot of people want to get involved in climate activism, but they don't know how to, or they don't know what it looks like. At YCAT, we have so many students that have never been involved with climate activism before but are able to make an impact by joining us. We have so many diverse opportunities for students, and I really urge others to take initiative and get involved in their community to make an impact on the climate crisis.
Students can become a member of one of YCAT's six core teams or two subcommittees based on their preferences and strengths. The core teams consist of operations, communications, logistics, finance, social media, and global affairs, which was recently launched.
The subcommittees have a more specialized role in YCAT, with the Climate Extracurricular Education Committee working with elementary and middle schools to teach students about the climate crisis, and the Student Network Committee helping older students develop their own community-based initiatives.