Four years ago, Jeff Katz, a Telluride resident, came up with the idea of ââinviting interesting and intelligent people to the beautiful San Juan Mountains to explore critical topics. In partnership with part-time local David Baldwin, Katz created and funded Open Minds, a local nonprofit symposium that will host a Saturday night public discussion titled âTackling the Climate + Energy Challenge Now: Hear from the Expertsâ.
âThe big topic this year is this vexatious combination of energy and climate change,â Katz explained. âMost of the world needs more energy and the whole world needs a solution to the production of carbon impacting the planet. “
Katz – an engineer who is the former CEO of SwissAir and founding president and CEO of Orbitz, and launched Journera, a software infrastructure product in 2016 – has 40 years of experience in the travel and technology industries. . As co-chairman of SCF Partners, a Houston-based private equity firm, Baldwin, who is also an engineer, is involved in the development of energy tools, businesses and systems. Their professional experiences have allowed everyone to meet interesting innovators who are ready to bring their expertise to local Open Minds symposia.
Katz explains that the goal of this symposium is âWhat now? “
âWith that in mind, we have extremes in our panel, from practical engineering to research and development. We will be here to eat, drink, be merry and solve problems, âKatz said.
From 5:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Dr. Scott Tinker, Founder of The Switch Energy Alliance and Creator of The Switch Documentary Series, will present ideas around âUnderstanding Global Energy and Climate Challengesâ. Tinker – who is also director of the Bureau of Economic Geology, a Texas state geologist, and a professor of geosciences at the University of Texas – motivates an audience, often younger, through understandable presentations on climate and energy challenges.
âIt’s a problem that lasts decades, maybe generations, in its resolution,â Katz said. “Dr. Tinker tries to inform, inspire and motivate the next generation.
The main symposium, which will run from 5:30 pm to 6:15 pm and will be titled âUsing Science and Innovation to Meet Double Challengesâ, will be moderated by Jeff Jordan. Jordan is the former CEO of Open Table and PayPal, the former chairman of eBay and the current managing partner of Andreessen Horowitz, one of the world’s leading venture capital firms.
âVenture capitalists put money at risk on very good people and very big ideas, knowing they may not work,â Katz explained. âAndreessen Horowitz is a company that seeks ideas and people who will change the way we think about things. Jeff is really used to seeing smart people and wonderful ideas and then trying to figure out what’s a loser and what might work, and if an idea works it could change the world.
The three symposium panelists are Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs, the largest incubator of cleantech startups in the United States; John Berger, CEO of Sunnova, the world’s leading developer of residential solar power; and Professor Steven Barrett of Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT, whose goal is a carbon neutral aviation industry.
âHe built a model of a hydrogen-powered airplane,â Katz said. âHis vision is to make them all emit zero carbon. “
The symposium, which is co-hosted by the Telluride Foundation, has attracted luminaries from the fields of science, industry and finance, which, along with governments, are key to tackling climate change in the long term, Katz said. He added that the head of MIT’s Media Lab, Dr Dava Newman, which focuses on collecting data from instruments in space to visualize what is happening on the planet; and Barbara Burger, president of Chevron Technology Ventures, which uses research and development to create more energy-efficient fuels while addressing their side effects, are two professionals interested in Open Minds.
When asked if it was possible to solve the dual energy and climate challenge, Katz laughed.
âThis is the riddle. Let’s be positive and say yes. The real answer is that we have to do it, âhe said. âEveryone wants a healthy and vibrant planet. Some markets are more advanced than others. China, for example, is a big producer of carbon and they are still burners of coal. The United States is less so, but it is a planet. If there is a lot of innovation and an extraordinary amount of collaboration, it can happen. After all, some things haven’t even been invented yet.
Katz added that for anyone who cares about Telluride, its beauty and the health of the planet, this will be an interesting forum, especially for children.
âThey are going to solve more difficult problems than us because they have more time,â he said. “So if we can motivate them and they can see and meet some world famous and super interesting people, what a pleasure.”
The Open Minds colloquium, open to the public and free, takes place Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Nugget Theater. COVID-19 vaccination masks and documents required.