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Friday, September 18, 2009

UNCP opened Speaker Series with Bill Nye

Bill Nye brought his quest to save the planet to The University of North Carolina at Pembroke on September 8.

Bill NyeKnown as “the science guy” because of his popular television shows, Nye was given a rock star welcome by a capacity crowd at UNCP’s Givens Performing Arts Center. He was the first speaker in the 2009-10 Distinguished Speaker Series.

“I would like all of you to change the world, but not right now, just give me a minute,” Nye said.

Nye spoke for 90 minutes in a talk that spanned the universe, but focused on how to save a tiny piece of it called Earth.

“All of you were here when the number changed from .03 percent to .04 percent,” Nye said of the rising level of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere. “This tiny change of this apparently insignificant gas is going to change everything.”

The audience estimated officially at 1,705 contained many UNCP students and many much younger, like Emma McClintock, age 10, from Raeford, N.C.

“He’s the famous science guy,” McClintock said.

“He’s on the Planet Green channel,” her mother chimed in.

If McClintock is an example of the Climate Generation (born after June 23, 1988 –  the day scientists first alerted Congress of global warming) as Nye dubbed them, the planet may be safe.

McClintock confidently strode to the microphone during the question and answer session following Nye’s talk.

“What’s your favorite thing about being a scientist?” she asked.

“When I learn something new,” Nye answered. “And as you know, I learn something new every day.”

For skeptics who may not yet believe that seven billion people have changed the atmosphere of the Earth, Nye said a look at arctic ice samples in the Ice Lab in Glendale, Calif., will answer the question. The content of ice layers tells the story of the planet dating back thousands of years.

“The ice shows the Earth has never had this much carbon dioxide come into the atmosphere this fast,” he said. “Cockroaches will remain, but I want you to save the world for you and me.”

Nye proposed more efficient use of power in homes and cars, improved batteries, more efficient solar cells and more wind power. He also suggested more sustainable agriculture policies and practices.

“Does it make any sense that a hamburger costs 49 cents and a salad (at the same restaurant) costs $5?” he said. “We subsidize the production of beef to the point where salad costs 10 times as much as beef? That’s crazy!

“We have to find a way to live without having such a big effect on our thin atmosphere,” Nye said. “The best way is to plant a tree 20 years ago, or today.

“There have got to be assumptions about the way we live that we’ve got dead wrong, and we can change them,” he continued. “We’ve got to learn to do more with less, but less is not what people want.”

Nye said the emerging economies and growing populations in India and China present a problem. To the question of how population can be controlled, Nye offered: “raise the standard of living of women so they will chose to have fewer children.

“We tried genocide, and it doesn’t work,” he concluded.

The Distinguished Speaker Series continues on September 29 with Chuck D. Valarie Plame Wilson speaks on November 5, Sheryl Swoopes on January 21 and Jodie Sweetin on March 23.

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