Nye Challenges New Generation at Lecture to Change the World
During UT Dallas Event, 'Science Guy' Stresses Role Students Can Play in Preserving the Planet
April 24, 2017
Bill Nye’s message to The University of Texas at Dallas crowd was straightforward: Your generation must change the world.
The mechanical engineer, science educator and television show host told the 1,200-strong crowd in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building Lecture Hall that “if you like to worry about things, you are living at a great time.” But he emphasized the role that the current students’ age group — which he christened “Generation S, for Science!” — can play in ensuring the long-term well-being of the planet.
Nye said the silver lining was that revolutionary changes occur quickly in modern times.
Nye meets Leo Arroyo, son of UT Dallas librarian Liz Muñoz, at a book signing on campus.
“My grandfather went into World War I on a horse. Twenty years later … everything had changed. War became mechanized,” Nye said. “So let’s change everything. Let’s go to all electric cars, let’s go to distributed electrical systems. Let’s use photovoltaics and the wind, geothermal, tides — we’ll do all this, transform the electric grid, and be the world leader.”
Nye’s lecture, held last month, was a University-wide effort by the Eugene McDermott Library; the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science in honor of its 30th anniversary; the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; the Naveen Jindal School of Management; and the Student Union and Activities Advisory Board.
Meandering between topics such as space exploration, renewable energy and the science of sundials over the course of 75 minutes, the lecture carried an urgent but hopeful tone. Nye stressed the link between gender equality and reduced rates of population growth, a key factor in the health of the environment.
“Raising the standard of living of women and girls is the most effective way to have smaller families, and the families that you do have, each kid has more resources, they thrive,” Nye said. “The way to do that is through education. And the way to provide education to people around the world is through the internet.”
“He is incredibly enthusiastic about his work, which just pulls everyone in and makes them that much more passionate. His visit to UT Dallas meant so much more to our students than just a fun night with everyone’s favorite scientist.”
Access to that information source was one of the items that Nye listed as basic needs for the future population: “There are three things we want for everybody on Earth: We want clean water; we want reliably produced, renewably produced electricity; and we want access to the internet.”
Citing research from the Solution Project, Nye said that the U.S. could be powered entirely by renewable energy sources, including wind turbines, solar panels and hydroelectric plants, right now. Nationwide, the transition would create nearly 3 million jobs in the energy sector, he said.
Before he wrapped up with a Q&A session, Nye returned a phone call to astrophysicist and science commentator Neil deGrasse Tyson. Citing a decades-old aphorism, Tyson told the crowd that “we are borrowing the Earth from our descendants,” asking, “how do you want them to view us as shepherds of this world?”
Alex Moreno, an electrical engineering senior, won a competition through the Jonsson School to speak at the lecture. He spoke briefly to the crowd about Nye’s effect on his childhood.
“There weren’t any college graduates, let alone engineers, in my family growing up,” Moreno said. “His quirky and exciting personality left a permanent mark in my life.”
Katie Brannon, the speakers chair for the Student Union and Activities Advisory Board’s executive council, called Nye’s lecture “engaging, thought-provoking, inspiring, and above all, entertaining.”
“He is incredibly enthusiastic about his work, which just pulls everyone in and makes them that much more passionate,” she said. “His visit to UT Dallas meant so much more to our students than just a fun night with everyone’s favorite scientist.”
In her introductory comments, Dr. Ellen Safley, dean of the McDermott Library, dedicated the event to former library communications manager Misty Hawley MA’13, who died last year. Hawley was instrumental in the initial conception and planning of the event.