Bill Nye challenges SFU grads to “Change the world!”

Bill Nye accepts honorary degree as crowd chants, "Bill! Bill! Bill!"

Bill Nye, more fondly known by many as the “Science Guy,” graced the stage at SFU’s fall convocation as he received an honorary degree in his signature bow tie and SFU regalia. “I don’t normally wear this,” he quipped.

SFU graduates of today would have been Nye’s target audience for his well-loved educational children’s show Bill Nye the Science Guy, which ran on PBS for five seasons from 1993–98.

In Nye’s convocation address, graduands and guests were invited to “consider the following” once again as he spoke to the dangers of climate change, the importance of investing in renewable energy sources, and the power of young people to effect change — all prefaced with a reassuring, “You can trust me, I’m a doctor.”

“Climate change is going to be absolutely the biggest challenge that you face.”

– Bill Nye,
Science Guy

Since his days of teaching scientific concepts to youngsters with a healthy dose of humour, Nye has continued to be a public figure and become a climate change activist.

“Climate change is going to be absolutely the biggest challenge that you face,” he told graduates.

Nye marvelled at how the global population has more than doubled in his own lifetime. That, combined with how thin our atmosphere is, has made it possible for us to affect the earth’s climate.

Space is a lot closer that you would think. “If you could drive straight up at regular highway speeds [. . .] you’d be in outer space in an hour. You’d be above the breathable part of the world’s atmosphere in five minutes,” explained Nye.

Despite the magnitude of the issue of climate change, Nye remains optimistic. “You’re living in an extraordinary time [. . .] when there are this many brains applied to the world’s problems.”

Nye also spoke to the importance of educating women around the globe and adding even more brainpower to finding solutions to world issues.

According to Nye, the solution is renewable energy sources. He added that there is enough wind power in Manitoba and Saskatchewan combined to provide electricity for the whole of North America several times over.

“The key will be to embrace these technologies, or something better, soon enough.”

Nye’s recent visit to the Alberta tar sands has only solidified his position. “When I see the tar sands in Alberta, to me, it doesn’t look like Canada. It looks like an apocalyptic moonscape.

“It is keeping Canada from participating on the world stage in the same way that other countries are stepping up to reduce their global [. . .] greenhouse gas emissions.”

He then brought the audience’s attention to the upcoming federal election, encouraging people to exercise their democratic rights to affect Canada’s impact on the environment. “For those of you who don’t want to vote, would you just shut up and let the rest of us run things?”

On a lighter note, Nye also expressed some of the unabashed love for science for which he is known.

He commented on the wonders of space and the origins of his fascination with the universe. As a young child, he learned that there are more stars in space than there are grains of sand on earth.

He shared an anecdote: “I remember standing on the beach in the US state of Delaware and thinking, ‘I’m pretty insignificant. [. . .] I’m a grain of sand.’

“‘I am nothing! I don’t matter at all!’”

He then reflected on how amazing it is that he, with his human brain, could imagine the expanse of the universe. “With your brain, you can know the cosmos and your place in space. And with your brains, graduates, you can, dare I say it, change the world!”

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