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Bill Nye speaks on the intersection of science and civic responsibility during Minnesota visit

The "Bill Nye the Science Guy" star implored Winona State students and community members to take action on climate change by voting in next week's general election.

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Science communicator Bill Nye speaks at Winona State University in Winona, Minn. on Nov. 1, 2022.
Dené K. Dryden / Post Bulletin
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WINONA, Minn. — During a Tuesday evening, Nov. 2, lecture at Winona State University, famed science communicator Bill Nye implored nearly 2,500 students, faculty and community members to take action on climate change by voting.

"People say to me all the time, 'Bill Nye the Science Guy, what can I do about climate change?'" Nye said. "Here's what you can do about climate change. Yes, you can only eat vegan cardboard. You can always combine your errands, don't use plastic bags, that's all good. Here's what I want you to do about climate change: vote."

Nye, an author, engineer and star of the 1990s PBS show "Bill Nye the Science Guy," spoke to a full crowd in the university's McCown Gym as part of the Winona State Lyceum lecture series.

"One of the things that really excited us was to bring a name that would be not just recognizable but exciting to people, from small children to their grandparents," said Peter Miene, dean of Winona State's College of Liberal Arts. "The goal through the course of the speaker series is to bring in people with different interests, because no one person is going to appeal to everyone. I mean, he comes pretty close."

Nye opened his lecture by talking through the differences between Earth, Mars and Venus, focusing on their average planetary temperatures and atmospheric compositions. Of course, for Earth, climate change has altered the planet's atmospheric composition, creating the cascading issue of global warming.

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"There's 8 billion of us breathing and burning," Nye said, referring to fossil fuel use. "And that's why the world's climate is changing, and people knew this. People have known this for decades, and it's gonna be up to you guys to do something about it."

Nye's call to action for the audience: vote in the midterm elections next week. He illustrated the intersection between science and civic duty by referencing Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. In it, one of the defined powers of Congress is "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts."

"We could run the whole world renewably right now if we just had political will," he said. "Yes, it's important to combine errands, ride a bicycle instead of driving. ... But we need big ideas, people. We need giant ideas."

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Science communicator Bill Nye speaks at Winona State University in Winona, Minn. on Nov. 1, 2022.
Dené K. Dryden / Post Bulletin

As he touched on other topics like the enormous size of the universe and his work as the CEO of The Planetary Society, 66-year-old Nye poked fun at his age and made references to his TV show — at one point when he asked the audience to "consider the following," a popular phrase from his show, the gym erupted with whoops and applause.

The evening wrapped with a Q&A session moderated by Winona State associate professor of geoscience Jennifer Anderson. They discussed the origins of Nye's TV show, his childhood and his friendship with astrophysicist and fellow science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Nye closed on his advice for future science teachers and other science communicators.

"What is it that you like about your favorite teacher, or professor?" he said. "They're passionate, they're into it, they think it's cool, whether it's anthropology, pottery making, whatever it is. That's what you want, to be passionate."

"A lot of us are in the age where we grew up watching him in school, so it was really cool to see your idol talk about something that's really important," said Kacey Davitt, a Winona State alumna. "Especially now in this day with political engagement, it is really important."

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At right, Winona State University geoscience professor Jennifer Anderson leads a Q&A session with Bill Nye on Nov. 1, 2022, in Winona, Minn.
Dené K. Dryden / Post Bulletin
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In Winona State University's McCown Gym, students, faculty and community members gathered to hear Bill Nye speak in Winona, Minn. on Nov. 1, 2022.
Dené K. Dryden / Post Bulletin

Related Topics: SCIENCEHIGHER EDUCATION
Dené K. Dryden is the Post Bulletin's region reporter, covering the greater Rochester area. Before joining the Post Bulletin in 2022, she attended Kansas State University and served as an editor for the student newspaper, the Kansas State Collegian, and news director for Wildcat 91.9, K-State's student radio station. Readers can reach Dené at ddryden@postbulletin.com.
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