Millennials grew up learning about the wonders of the natural world from Bill Nye “the Science guy” and now he is back to share another lesson with a more inter-generational audience.
Last week, the comedic educator put on a more serious tone while visiting Fort McKay, Alta. where he shot footage for his upcoming climate change documentary Bill Nye’s Global Meltdown. He was joined by National Geographic filmmakers working on a separate feature.
During his stop, Nye spoke with APTN National News about his experience.
“Producing all this oil that’s producing all this carbon dioxide, that’s not good from a global standpoint,” Nye said to the news outlet. “From an environmental point of view locally, it’s astonishing and overwhelming.”
Nye was reportedly “amazed” at the size of the tar sands and the damage they have caused to the surrounding environment.
“Consider all the toxins that are being used to move the fluid around and then they put in these enormous ponds, or lakes, or encampments,” he said. “It’s very much out of nature’s natural state.”
During his time in the province, Nye visited with members of the Fort McKay First Nation, where he spoke with former councillor and environmental activist Cecilia Fitzpatrick.
“There’s got to be some other way to earn a living besides destroying our boreal forest and destroying our muskegs and depleting our water and the Athabasca river,” Fitzpatrick said, noting that she welcomed Nye’s visit.
“We work for industry and our group of companies here, they work with our people, yet we’re still poor healthwise and social-wise,” she continued. “We still have poverty here, we’re not rich by no means. Any which way we can get word out there, it doesn’t matter to me, we still need to have a global awareness of our environmental situation.”
“I think anybody would say that First Nations have rights that have been abridged or catastrophically curtailed,” Nye said. “Everybody says they feel like the tipping point’s been reached. Everyone we speak with, says enough is enough kind of thing. But then you have people that are in denial of climate change, who justify all of this extraordinary exploitation to the environment. It’s amazing the scale of it, is just very hard to believe and very troubling.”
Nye also consulted with Dr. John O’Connor, known for blowing the whistle and linking the oilsands to high cancer rates in Fort Chipewyan and Fort McKay, where he provides medical services.
For reasons unknown, O’Connor was recently let go by the Nunee Health Centre in Fort Chipewyan, though he said patients still contact him for distance consultations.
“It was very good, I think we were speaking for about an hour,” O’Connor said. “He was very much in the same mind frame as many of us are regarding the tar sands and the utter lack of accountability, responsibility and transparency around government when it comes to the truth and the impact of the tar sands mining.
“He was well aware of it and agreed that there was no plan B, no alternative, so the option of shutting down that industry without a default employer would be madness, but, we need to be making big steps in the direction of exactly that.”
Nye is only the most recent star to use his celebrity to draw attention to the environmental impact of the oil extraction industry of northern Alberta.
Within the last few years, Leonardo DiCaprio, musician Neil Young and activist Desmond Tutu have all spoken out about the matter.
“Bill Nye asked, am I hopeful? And I said, I am very hopeful,” O’Connor said. “He asked why. I said because, we’ve had a change in government. Among people, there has been a definite movement, there’s a sense that things need to change…locally, countrywide and globally.”