MILWAUKEE – As a scientist and as a religious man, Daniel Weber believes taking steps to prevent further climate change is everyone’s responsibility.
Weber, 63, a senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences, was instrumental in organizing an interfaith, non-political vigil at Milwaukee City Hall Jan. 20.
The vigil, part of a national effort by Interfaith Power & Light and GreenFaith, was one of five similar events across the state and 68 across the United States in the first 100 hours of Donald Trump’s presidency.
Trump has called climate change a hoax created by China to disrupt business in the United States.
“I think he has shown a remarkable lack of understanding of the science,” Weber said.
Trump’s comments spurred Interfaith Power & Light to organize vigils this winter, but even if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, “we may have done this anyway,” Weber said.
The event was not about promoting particular policies. Rather, it provided an opportunity for people of all faiths to come together to discuss the moral crises that accompany human-caused climate change.
“Judaism is very clear,” said Weber, who attends both Lake Park Synagogue in Milwaukee and Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid in Glendale. “We as humans are responsible for each other.”
Weber is stepping up not only as co-chairperson for this event, but also in many other capacities.
He serves on the board of directors for Wisconsin Interfaith Power & Light and volunteers with Canfei Nesharim, a group devoted to “sustainable living inspired by Torah”; Jewish Wisconsin Initiative for a Sustainable Environment, or J-WISE; Tikkun Ha’Ir, an organization promoting social justice in the Jewish community and beyond; and more.
Day to day, Weber, who earned his Ph.D. in behavioral toxicology of fishes from UWM, researches the effects of lead poisoning in fish.
In his role at the college, he has helped develop education programs for high school students to work with live animals so that they can see the effects of pollution first hand.
He has been studying fish for 30 years and has been interested in science much longer.
Weber’s father was a biochemist, and Weber accompanied him to his lab as a child. They also used Estabrook Park, near his childhood home, as a lab, studying the Milwaukee River and all of the nature around it.
In the 1970s, Weber traveled to Israel as a foreign exchange student to study cattle and later trees through the Ministry of Agriculture.
“I got to see parts of Israel that most tourists don’t get to see,” he said.
Weber’s passion for the natural world spills over into his free time, too: He enjoys biking, hiking and photography, primarily nature photography. He also collects stamps.
Weber and his wife, Shelley, have three children and a 3-year-old grandson, whom he describes as “the light of our life.”
To keep that light shining and improve the lives of countless individuals feeling the effects of global warming, Weber wants to see the current presidential administration build on Barack Obama’s progress to curb climate change.
“As a religious person, I’m an eternal optimist,” he said. “I believe that things will keep moving forward.”
But not without hard work.
Approximately 40 others joined Weber at the Milwaukee vigil Jan. 20 – brothers and sisters with Christian, Jewish and Sikh backgrounds, among others.
“You realize that this is a moral issue, a human issue,” Weber said. “We need to reverse course.”