By Casey Gale
On April 23, approximately 800 students piled into the Cavalla Room to get a glimpse of a man most had probably only seen on television in the ’90s, Bill Nye.
After cheers of “Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!” rang out across the auditorium, The Science Guy sprinted onto the stage to chat about everything from sundials to colors he invented (like xanthodescence, a yellow-ish shadow) to his main talking point as Earth Day keynote speaker: climate change.
“For the record, I just want you to know I’ve been fighting this climate change fight for a long freaking time,” said Nye, who spent the previous day discussing climate change with President Barack Obama.
During his speech, he discussed how climate change has worsened over time, as well as what can be done to take care of the planet. According to Nye, the already thin atmosphere, coupled with a population increase of about 4 billion in the past 50 years, has triggered a rapid increase in climate change.
“That’s the problem,” he said. “The earth’s atmosphere is that thin, and there are seven-plus billion of us trying to breathe it and burn it.”
Nye suggested that now is the time to act so future generations will be less burdened with environmental issues. A government-incentivized switch to clean energy, such as wind or solar power, could prompt much-needed changes. But Nye asked college students to pitch in because they have the power to change attitudes toward climate change.
While changing the world will be no small feat, he provided a way in which students can help out: open a dialogue about global environmental issues.
“Yes, it’s good to carry your own water bottle, that’s good. Not throw away plastic water bottles? That’s good. Carry your own grocery bag, and don’t get a new grocery bag every time? That’s good,” Nye said at a press conference before his speech. “But the main thing I think we could do right now is talk about climate change. If people were talking about climate change the way they talk about Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore — if people were talking about climate change the way they were talking about that, we would be doing something about it. We’d be getting to work.”
Steve Schwartz, a senior geoscience major and eco-rep, said he was moved by Nye’s words.
“Bill Nye was the inspiration I had to pursue a degree in science,” he said. “He is also my inspiration for becoming an educator in the science realm. Meeting him was a dream come true, and I still can’t believe I got to hear him speak. It was an awesome night.”
Lexi Reynolds, a sophomore sociology major and eco-rep, said it was one of the best Rider experiences she’s had.
“Being involved with the Bill Nye event in celebration of Earth Day was truly amazing as the scale of the event was larger than anything we’ve planned before,” she said. “Melissa Greenberg did such a great job. The whole night went off without a hitch. Bill was hilarious during his speech.”
After the speech, Nye ended the night with a Q&A session, and signed of his new book, Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation. He is currently working on a book about climate change.
“I want you guys to be the next great generation,” said Nye. “We’re at an extraordinary point in history. If you’re gonna be born, this is the time you’d want to be born. Humankind is less violent than ever. There are actually fewer wars than there have ever been. There are fewer amazingly horrible diseases than there have ever been. But, we have climate change. So I want you guys to, dare I say it, change the world.”