We pose four questions to Seth Marder, one of three summit chairs. Marder is an expert in chemical and biological engineering and director of the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI) at CU Boulder.
As a member of the World Cultural Council, Marder merges his expertise in chemical and biological engineering with his efforts developing international goodwill.
Why is this summit so important, and why now?
This summit is critical because the impacts of climate change on human rights have been going on for ages, but the public awareness has not necessarily been what is required to achieve the changes that are going to positively impact people's lives. And as you can see, just from listening to the news, the impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly severe. They're impacting people. And we have no time to wait and contemplate the issue. We need to act. We need to raise people's awareness. And we need to begin to provide actionable solutions that can be deployed all over the world.
Why is the emphasis on human rights so important in the climate change discussion?
The pressing need to focus on the human rights aspects of climate change pertain to the fact that in many cases, the people who are most severely impacted by climate change are not the people who have voices that are heard. As a result, it's possible that solutions will not necessarily be applicable.
Why are you personally excited about what's coming, and why did you agree to help to organize this summit?
I was asked to be a co-chair and immediately said yes, knowing that human rights and climate change are neither one of my technical areas of expertise. But I felt from a selfish perspective that there were things that I may have to offer in terms of my knowledge in the energy arena and in my knowledge of trying to get people organized. At the same time, what an amazing opportunity this would be for me to grow personally by interacting with these incredible people who have been brought together to put this conference together. I think that the people involved really want to see this summit make a shift in the needle. To be part of something like that is truly a gift. I'm immensely humbled by being able to help shape the program of the summit, to learn, and to ultimately attend and see what we as a community can do to help advance the cause of addressing climate change as a human rights issue.
What is your philosophy on addressing climate change as a human rights issue?
I think that what's going to be really, really critical for us as a civilization to address climate change is to really think about this in an empathetic way. To value each life as being precious and not to stratify the values of life depending upon what cultures people are from, what their economic status is, what their religious status is, whether they're refugees or not. And that's a major challenge. If this summit can play a small role in trying to appeal to people's capacity to be empathetic—and succeed—that will be amazing.