Taking Data-Driven Action
By Catherine Black ’94
“I wasn’t actually sure about climate change until I did the math myself. I realized this isn’t a soft science. This is black and white.” This quote from a recent Bloomberg article sums up David Vogel’s ’91 sentiments about global warming and offers insight into the rigorous methods he has used to test them.
As an expert in data mining and predictive modeling, Vogel founded the award-winning hedge fund Voloridge Investment Management, LLC in Jupiter, Florida. But he also applies his talent as a data scientist to one of his great passions – the looming issue of climate change – through the VoLo Foundation, which he runs with his wife, Thais.
In addition to supporting international organizations working on environmental policy and education (including the National Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Fund and Environmental Defense Fund, to name a few), the foundation recently made a transformative gift to the Sidney and Minnie Kosasa Community for Grades 2 – 5, which will be the first net-zero energy facility on campus. The Vogels’ desire to build a more sustainable future lines up perfectly with Punahou’s aim to educate future generations whose values, behaviors and work can help solve some of the challenges facing the planet.
For David, much of his critical thinking about these issues can be traced back to Punahou, where, among other things, he excelled on the math team. “I always liked numbers and still do. They provide elegant solutions to some real-world problems that would otherwise seem unsolvable or too complex.”
After Punahou, David pursued a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Master of Science degree in scientific computing from New York University. His training taught him to always consider whether an argument could be backed up by data, which led him to question the raging debate about climate change.
“I don’t like to believe things just because ‘they’ say we should – I always look at the numbers to see if something’s true. I didn’t want to believe in global warming unless I analyzed the data myself.”
David looked at sea temperatures registered by buoys around the world, at numbers he obtained from glaciologists based on ice samples demonstrating what the earth’s temperature was at different periods in time, and at published energy consumption data to determine how many molecules of carbon dioxide humans have put into the atmosphere from 1850 – 2010. “I came to the same, if not more severe, conclusions about climate change,” he says.
If David is the mind of the VoLo Foundation, Thais is the heart. As a mother of six, she feels that, “You have to hope for a better future for our children. I think education starts at home, but I would like for kids to have that education at school as well. Teachers are the ones who help students to notice environmental concerns, who can encourage them to develop the knowledge and tools to take action towards a sustainable future. And it’s not only about being environmentally friendly, it’s also about teaching them to be leaders in this field to help society to change.”