What I learned during an evening with Bill Nye
By Ayra Fouad, Contributor
We all remember the good ol’ days in middle school when our teacher would pull out the old box TV cart and pop in an old VHS tape — with our eyes glued to the screen, we watched as the static slowly faded into the all too familiar theme song, “Bill! Bill! Bill!”
For those of you who haven’t watched the viral video of Bill Nye blowtorching a globe, I’ll fill you in on a little secret — Bill Nye is an active advocate for the environment, to say the least.
I recently had the privilege of attending an Evening with Bill Nye, held at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in November and to say that sharing a room with the one and only science guy was thrilling, would be an understatement. In those magical few hours, this is what he taught me.
The most recent scientific research shows the Earth is spiraling — climate change is taking a turn for the worse at an exponential rate. According to the WMO, within the past four years, “the global average temperature has increased by 1.1°C since the pre-industrial period, and by 0.2°C compared to 2011-2015.”
Bill Nye spoke about the time he visited New York City and watched the global population hit a whopping 3 billion on a large screen. This was only in 1960. Since then, the world’s population size has more than doubled to an astounding 7.7 billion people, and is predicted to reach the next billion by 2023.
In his words, our issue lies within the fact that we have more people and less resources to sustain them. Fossil fuels take millions of years to regenerate which deems them non-renewable; eventually they will run out.
The average Canadian requires 7.7 global hectares (gha) to sustain their lifestyle, according to the Global Footprint Network. This number exponentially surpasses the Earth’s biocapacity which lies at 1.6 gha per person. Simply put, if we continue to live this way, there will be a massive resource shortage within our lifetimes.
It’s hard to picture the kind of damage we are doing and realize that the responsibility lies with us to fix it. So often, we hear people complain about having such little impact on fixing anything; however, we are the ones who began this climate crisis, and the power is in our hands to fix it.
Nye mentioned the fact that 2016 was the warmest year recorded, but assured us we will quickly beat it.
Even though there is so much evidence proving the destructive nature of our lifestyles, there are many out there who deny the reality of climate change. Therefore, they do nothing to lessen their ecological footprints. My question to those who deny climate change is this: what if we saved the Earth anyway?
Surely there can be no harm in trying — in reducing the amount of smog in our skies and styrofoam in our seas, in making the planet just a bit greener and cleaner. Regardless of your stance on whether or not climate change may be an issue, taking actions towards a cleaner future is only ever going to be a step forward.
The demand for energy is constantly on the rise, growing alongside our ever-increasing population. A switch to green energy methods would provide a more sustainable lifestyle of everyone.
Often in Alberta, with an economy so reliant on oil and gas, many see renewable energy as a threat to those working in the energy sector. But by shifting our focus and implementing green energy, there is no reason for jobs to be lost — in fact, it will create more jobs. According to the UCSUSA, “more jobs are created for each unit of electricity generated from renewable sources than from fossil fuels.”
These green energy systems will need people not only to implement them on a mass scale, replacing oil and gas plants, but will also require constant maintenance. In this way, jobs can be transferred from one source of energy extraction to another.
When something as significant as the health of our planet is spiralling downhill so rapidly, it can be daunting to think about where to start. However, it is important to realize that the little changes are what make the biggest impact.
The first factory to release the first puff of black smoke started a trend that continues to this day. In the same way, the first person to protest these emissions will one day lead to an environmental revolution that will save the world. All it takes is one goal and a passionate group of people.