Bill Nye Knows You’re Insignificant But Important [Video]

September 15, 2016

2:30 pm

This article is brought to you in partnership with the 2016 Life Is Beautiful festival. Make sure to buy your tickets now.

Bill Nye and his bow tie made a surprise appearance at the 2015 Life Is Beautiful festival, where he offered a punchy half-hour lecture on the state of the world and what we can do about it. At first, his two main theses can easily sound contradictory. Here’s a look at the biggest takeaways that America’s favorite scientist presented, and why they work together.

Anyone Can Change the World

Bill’s parents were both heavily involved in World War II. His father was a prisoner of war, while his mother worked on the Enigma code. Were they superhuman? Not quite:

“They played the hand they were dealt. They were born at a certain time and this world crisis came up and they just got to work and did what they had to do to get through it. To change the world.”

That’s the same attitude that Bill argues young people today need to rely on. For Bill, taxpayers who don’t understand vaccines, climate change or geology present a far more subtle and far-reaching threat.

We’re All Just Specks in the Universe

Every huge scientist, from Neil deGrasse Tyson to Carl Sagan, loves emphasizing this one: from an unbiased standpoint, humans are tiny and insignificant. We live on one planet in the vast universe, and can’t even comprehend how small we are in both a physical and temporal scale. And that’s just talking about our entire human race. You’re one member of around 7.3 billion on Earth. Granted, that number’s up from exactly 3 billion people in 1964, as Bill Nye notes (he just missed seeing the 3 billion-mark get hit in real time and therefore never got to party like it was 2,999,999).

But We Can Stick Together

So, how can we be so tiny and yet so capable of changing the world? Isn’t that like a single raindrop trying to flood a canyon? It is if we don’t have company.

The notion of “sticking together” isn’t just a hold-hands-around-the-campfire type concept, either. The paths that allow people to positively impact the Earth are sharply defined. Encouraging wind and solar power could dramatically reduce a dependence on less healthy energy options, for example. Check out the full lecture above for Bill’s entertaining take on the options available.

In his words:

“The technology exists: We just need to embrace it on a continent—or industry—wide scale.”

2016’s Life is Beautiful kicks off in a week, on September 23, 24 and 25, 2016, in downtown Las Vegas. Tickets are available now. More information, including the set times to expect each panel or activity, will be available on the website in the near future, but right now, you can browse all the events in the Life Is Beautiful lineup, from music, art, and food to ideas and comedy.

Image: Wikimedia

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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