Bill Nye thinks UCF students have a unique opportunity to change the world. Today, he said, that change can be with a vote.
To a crowd of more than 1,000 students in the Pegasus Ballroom March 15, Nye said voting in the Florida primaries is one way young people at UCF can better support candidates that embrace technological changes and the voice of the scientific community.
Nye criticized climate change deniers, citing the four remaining Republican presidential candidates and Florida Gov. Rick Scott as purposefully ignorant of climate change despite all being well-educated and aware of the problem.
“Deniers have managed to introduce the idea that the scientific uncertainty over how many centimeters the sea level will rise is uncertainty about climate change overall,” he said.
Nye tied climate change concealment to oil and gas companies whose financial concerns seemingly outweigh their concern for the environment.
“Suppose regulations are passed and people get tired of pumping CO2 into the atmosphere,” he said. “Suddenly, your stocks are worth nothing.”
Instead, Nye championed wind and solar energy in Florida. He said companies could pivot from drilling holes in the surrounding oceans’ floors to building piers for wind turbines and residents could decorate Florida roofs with solar power.
According to the Solutions Project, an organization dedicated to educating the public and influencing leaders to move their states and the nation toward 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, Florida could mine energy from wind and solar power — completely transitioning away from traditional energy production by 2050.
“Not only could you get in at the ground floor of this, but you could make a lot of money,” Nye said.
Nye’s other key to changing the world: space exploration.
“Exploring space is inherently optimistic,” he said.
In anticipation of Nay-sayers who will assume drastic changes in energy and space exploration technology cannot be done soon, Nye drew the example of the transportation industry. Between World War I and World War II, the transportation industry was revolutionized. Soldiers who had gone into battle on horses in the 1910s were driving tanks in the 1940s.
“While you’re voting in the primaries, and while you’re addressing climate change, you can — dare I say — change the world,” he said.
At the conclusion of his speech, Nye called a close friend and popular astrophysicist, Neil Degrasse Tyson.
Nye asked him what UCF students could do to change the world.
“Do you care to make discoveries and change the world?” Tyson asked. “If you do, nothing else matters. Not even your pedigree.”
Passion is vital, Nye said. He cited passion as the No. 1 reason he was successful in inspiring so many UCF students to be interested in science.
Nye heavily influenced junior biomedical sciences major Lovely Davilmar, who said her dream is to become a biologist that researches and cures infectious diseases. She is also a creationist, believing the world originated from specific acts of God, and that evolution is not a valid theory.
She has written a 63-page proposal arguing against evolution. Today, she clutched Nye’s book "Undeniable", which argues against creationism and highlights evolution’s scientific validity and basis, while awaiting his autograph.
“I think this book will help me identify [Nye’s] mindset and help me get a better idea of the argument for evolution,” she said.
She said information in "Undeniable" may sway her away from creationism. Either way, she will use the information to revise her proposal.
Trevor Hastings, a junior business management major, said he had never been very interested in science except for Nye’s influence during his childhood.
“I have a greater understanding right now of climate change,” Hastings said. “It’s just more set in my mind now after hearing it from a person of his status.”
Nye used his status to encourage students to vote and note their personal abilities. He said this is the next great generation, as students present today will witness or be part of drastic changes in material science and technology, space exploration, and energy production and consumption.
Sophomore hospitality major Melissa Gentile said people sometimes lose sight of their individual abilities.
“My takeaway today was to stay passionate and know that, as an individual, I can make a difference,” Gentile said. “I also think we’re fortunate to live in a country that allows us to vote and someone like Bill Nye is definitely doing the right thing by using his influence to encourage us to get to the polls and cast our votes.”
Nye signed copies of "Undeniable" and "Unstoppable" after the event. Both are available in campus book stores.
This story was originally published March 15, 2016.
Leona Mynes is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.