With Meghna Chakrabarti
Bill Nye, science educator, engineer and television host, addressed the Goucher College class of 2019 in a commencement speech.
"Our world is warming, and the living things around us are changing and dying at an unprecedented rate," he said, speaking about climate change. "So you are going to have to make big changes in the way you and your kids live."
Partial Transcription Of Bill Nye's 2019 Goucher College Commencement Speech
Now all of you aren’t facing a global war, or, at least, not yet. Instead, you’re facing a global change of life itself. Our world is warming, and the living things around us are changing and dying at an unprecedented rate. So you are going to have to make big changes in the way you and your kids live. At the start of the Industrial Revolution, after James Watt came up with a very practical steam engine, we had about 280 parts per million of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere. Today, we have nearly 415, a change by a factor of one and a half in just two-and-a-half centuries. We’re not talking about two million years; we’re talking about 200 years. The only other times climates have changed this fast here on Earth are associated with the occasional asteroid impact. There’s never been anything like it in all of human history.
When my grandmother, who grew up in Washington, DC, went to see the Wright Brothers aeroplane fly in College Park, MD, in 1909, there were a few more than one-and-a-half billion people on Earth. Today, there are almost six times that many. We are burning and breathing an atmosphere that’s so thin…how thin is it? It’s so thin, if you can drive straight up, you’d be in outer space in an hour. On 695, it would be two and a half hours.
With every passing second, there are four more people born on Earth. By the time you all reach your billionth second on this planet, a little over halfway into your 31st year, we will have nine billion people, we may have close to 10 billion people, on Earth.
We, by that I mean you, are going to find ways to feed us all. And you will, with technology derived from science, and with policies that support innovation investment in the greater good, policies based on facts. It is no longer a matter of only keeping the air and water clean, curtailing the accidental creation of plastic trash, like straws, and hoping that will be OK. No. Nowadays we, by that I mean you, are going to have to steer our spaceship, take charge of Earth. It’s no longer a matter of just being good stewards. From now on, we humans will have to deliberately control what we do to our atmosphere, the land and sea, to ensure that we maintain as much biodiversity as possible, while taking care of all of us.
Now when it comes to changing the world, don’t be scared. Don’t freak out. When you have to perform doing anything, be it a final exam, dressing for a date, winning a world war, or managing a planet, you might be nervous. You might be scared. And that fear can stop you cold. But don’t let it. As we say in the theater, and on television, take that fear and turn it into excitement.
Stefano Kotsonis produced this segment for broadcast.
This segment aired on June 3, 2019.