Inslee meets ‘Science Guy’ Bill Nye at Mount St. Helens

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LONGVIEW —A governor and a scientist walk past a volcano. The rest of the conversation was no joke.

Governor Jay Inslee and Bill Nye “the Science Guy” hosted an event Thursday at Johnston Ridge overlooking Mount St. Helens. The two spoke about their shared interests in outdoor education, tackling climate change and increasing the number of COVID-19 vaccinations.

The governor also presented Nye with a pin and named him Washingtonian Honorary of the Day for his work as an inspiring local scientific figure.

The major point of the appearance of the two was to demonstrate the success that outdoor education could have. Inslee said hands-on outdoor classes, whether in a small pond near town or in irreplaceable places like Mount St. Helens, could spark major interest in science and education among children.

“It’s safe here both to make us healthy and safe to understand the importance of following good science, without denying good science,” Inslee said.

Nye’s status as a famous scientist and Washingtonian helped get the point across. Nye has lived in Washington for over 40 years, having first been hired as an engineer for Boeing. One of Nye’s first jobs on television was to host an educational short for the Washington State Department of Ecology in 1989.

Bill Nye the Science Guy was produced by KCTS-TV, the Seattle public service broadcaster, and filmed much of its 100 episodes in Washington.

“The Delta variant, climate change, taking care of each other and redistributing wealth so that everyone has a high quality of life. We’re all in the same boat, so let’s go ahead and save the world! Nye said.

Inslee said he first met Nye in 1998 when he was first running for the House of Representatives and Nye was at the peak of his show’s popularity. He said the two went kayaking along the Washington coast and have kept in touch ever since because of their shared interest in science.

“He’s such a dynamic person. Sometimes the science can seem really gray, but Bill has done so much to make it exciting. He’s also perpetually optimistic about what science can do, ”Inslee said.

Inslee and Nye have not appeared at many events together, although Nye did appear briefly in the video announcement of Inslee’s 2020 presidential campaign.

The two special guests attended an abridged introduction from the staff of the Mount St. Helens Institute and the Johnston Ridge Observatory. Karissa Lowe, Cowlitz Tribe Member and Mount St. Helens Institute Board Member, spoke about the tribe’s historic connection to the region.

US Ranger Katie Akers led the keynote presentation on the history of the 1980 eruption and the volcano’s growth that followed. Akers said seeing the return of trees and natural growth to the volcanic region during his years of work there gave him reason to feel optimistic about coming out of the coronavirus pandemic.

“When it seemed like your world was shaking all the time, I could always remember the lesson I learned from Mount St. Helens – that life is resilient and goes on,” Akers said.

Inslee and Nye also answered questions about the current state of the pandemic

Inslee said he was pleased with the success of the state’s “Shot of a Lifetime” in increasing the number of COVID-19 vaccinations. He added that no discussion of returning to warrants or universal mask blockages was needed as long as the vaccination campaign continued.

He and Nye both expressed the need for even more vaccinations in order to reduce the risk of another, worse variant. Inslee compared people who have yet to be vaccinated to “biological weapons labs” that could create new strains.

“The Delta variant will find you. If you are not vaccinated, he will find you, ”Nye said.

The Johnston Ridge Observatory and the Coldwater Science and Learning Center have been closed to the public for more than a year due to COVID-19 restrictions. Operations are expected to resume later this summer.




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