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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Voting Guy

Air Date: Week of

Bill Nye, popularly known as “The Science Guy,” speaks with host Steve Curwood about his new role as a spokesperson for the Washington Conservation Voters. The group is launching a campaign to increase the importance of environmental issues in politics.


CROWD: (chanting) Protect our water! Protect our air! Protect our water! Protect our air!

CURWOOD: In Washington state, some activists are taking a gentler and perhaps more traveled path to build support for the environment. Just a few days ago, at the state capital in Olympia, conservationists kicked off a campaign for clean water and salmon protection.

CROWD: (chanting) Protect our water! Protect our air! Protect our water! Protect our air!

CURWOOD: Political rallies are nothing new, but this campaign is going multi-media, with the star of a children's television show as its spokesman, Bill Nye, "The Science Guy." Mr. Nye says he wants people to vote in an environmentally-conscious manner. But ultimately, he says his Web site and television ads will have succeeded if they just get people out to vote, period.

NYE: I don't take much of a stand in the spot. I just want people to vote. And if there's somebody that's going to argue that voting is bad, well I'm just going to disagree with that guy. (Laughs) I mean, sorry, I think voting's good. This call-click-vote thing that we have here in Washington state, it's a Web site, will lead you to other Web sites that allow you to send electronic mail to your representative.

CURWOOD: Tell me, quickly describe that Web site for me.

NYE: Callclickvote.com. They want you to take the environment into account when you vote, so here's the bit.

(A turkey gobbles.) Nye's voice-over: "Salmon and people. We both need clean water to live. But too much traffic, too many clear-cuts …" Horns beep, a chainsaw revs up. " … it's making pollution, it's making people sick … " Coughing. "… and it's killing our fish. Now we've all got to do our part to clean up out here." Water runs. "And conserve water at home. And tell them to do their part here. Then you can influence your elected officials to make and enforce good laws. Right?" A crowd of children yells, "Yeah!" Nye: "So call, click, vote!" Beeps. "We don't have a lot of time here." (A clock ticks.)

CURWOOD: Now, your science show is really popular with kids. And even the Web site that we saw looks like it's primarily geared toward a younger audience. Do you think kids are a real force for social change?

NYE: Absolutely. Kids very much have a big influence on their parents. You know, many parents complain, in a good-natured way, that their son or daughter is always after them to recycle the paper, not throw this away, turn off the lights, because this message is clear to them. And I like to argue it's clear to a kid in a scientific way. A kid can evaluate, can look at the world. You know, why are there wars? Or why are we making more pollution? These are questions that a kid can ask without the blurriness of the complexity of life.

CURWOOD: Uh huh. You don't have --

NYE: In my view.

CURWOOD: You don't have a long-term plan that these kids are going to grow up in, run things and change things, do you?

NYE: Ah -- it would be crazy, wouldn't it? That would be crazy. Kids aren't going to grow up. They're never going to become voters. They're not going to develop social habits that will affect the future. What are you trying -- to get us all killed? Yeah, I think they do.

CURWOOD: You have a lot of fans here listening to you in the control room, and they want to know: Bill Nye, why did you become a science guy?

NYE: That's a good question, and I would answer I'm not really sure. Ever since I was a little kid, long before really I can remember, long before a conscious memory, I loved science. I was fascinated by the world around me, fascinated with making stuff. And it stuck with me.

CURWOOD: So you became the "Science Guy," and what brought you to become Bill Nye, the Voter Guy?

NYE: Bill Nye, the Voter Guy. You know, I guess my parents once again. They would drop what they were doing, they would stop -- I mean, you had to wait for dinner while they went and voted. And it is said, it is said, Steve -- now I cannot document this --


NYE: It is said that my great-grandmother did not attend the birth of her first grandchild, which would be a big tradition among grandmothers, because she was marching in the suffragette parade in Washington, D.C. Now, I cannot document that, but this is the tradition handed down to me. And I've always been, I've always believed that if you vote, you can influence things.

CURWOOD: Bill Nye is the official spokesperson for the Washington Conservation Voters. Thank you, sir.

NYE: Thank you.



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