The TH Interview: Bill Nye the Science Guy
Image credit: Planet Green
He’s one of the world’s foremost scientific educators and comedians, and if you’ve spent time in a science classroom recently there’s a good chance you’ve been exposed to the magic of Bill Nye. I caught up with him recently, and learned what he has to say about the growing green movement in America, his friendly eco-competition with neighbor Ed Begley Jr., the current group of presidential candidates, and why swing dancing (yes, swing dancing) is his favorite form of eco-friendly exercise. But mostly I found that he’s as fun in person as he is on TV. Enjoy!
TreeHugger: So many of us grew up watching you on television or have heard about your friendly eco-competition with Ed Begley. Can you tell us a bit about what you’re up to now, and how you’re making your own life greener?Bill Nye: Well, I have this house that I keep working to make greener and greener… I’ve got a 4 Kilowatt solar system to run my electricity, I pre-heat my hot water with a solar energy system, I’ve got a low water use garden, grow my own vegetables, and instead of driving I ride my bicycle. In fact, when we’re done talking I’m going to get on my bike and ride over to a meeting I have to attend. And I don’t even go to the gym for exercise anymore. Instead I go swing dancing! I’ve found that it’s just an incredible form of exercise, and the girl to guy ratio is terrific in these kinds of places. So I say to every man in America, get into swing dancing! I mean, you’ll find that there are literally loads of women just waiting for you to grab them and dance with them. It’s incredible!
TH: Yourself and Ed Begley Jr. are neighbors who have been engaged in a friendly sort of neighborhood eco-competition. Who would you say is winning the eco-smackdown between Bill and Ed?
BN: I’m crushing him! Well, maybe not quite crushing him… But he certainly has motivated me to do better. I just finished putting in one of these Pergolas in my backyard, and the slats are even made of recycled plastic that’s expected to last like 300 years… So I hope that will be long enough…
TH: I’m willing to bet you get the chance to try out all kinds of fun new stuff before the rest of us… What great new eco-toys have you had the chance to test out recently?
BN: Well, when I was out walking past Ed’s house I saw that the folks from BMW had brought over this new 7-series that runs on hydrogen and it was incredible. You just press a button and you’re off and driving. And not that I’m saying hydrogen is the answer either, but it’s these small steps that all add up. The thing is where the innovation is going to come from… And being a patriot I’d just as soon see American engineers be the one’s to figure this whole thing out, though it’s certainly not necessary for that to be the case… And don’t you worry a bit, the truth is that somebody is going to get really, really rich off of all of this. But like I said; being a patriot I’d just as soon see that be Americans rather than someone else.
TH: Given the fact that environmentalism in America has a history of often running hot and cold, where do you see the environmental movement heading from here?
BN: Well, environmentalism in the past was constantly focusing on asking people to simply do less. And perhaps rightly so; but the truth is that to be successful we have to find ways to do more with less… And that’s why emerging fields like nano-technology are so promising. You’re talking about materials that are 10,000 times the strength of steel but weigh just one-sixth of it. Imagine if you could get it to where they were just 10 times the strength of steel and you can see where the potential lies…