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Bill Nye on the Importance of Preserving National Parks — and How They Can Be a Wake-Up Call on Climate Change

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Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for National Park Service

You don’t have to be a science guy like Bill Nye to understand the impact of climate change.

Nye himself says America’s national parks are unfortunately full of clear-cut signs of how global warming is hurting the precious lands our ancestors set aside for future generations of Americans to enjoy.

“Climate change is a serious problem for national parks,” Nye tells PEOPLE. “And if you visit national parks I think anybody will have an appreciation for it.”

Nye, who was tapped to be the centennial ambassador for the National Park Foundation’s Find Your Park initiative, says a visit to a national park can “change your life” — and can be an eye-opening experience for anyone who doubts that now is the time for action on climate change.

“If you go to Glacier National Park, you’ll see the glaciers are not where they used to be,” Nye explains. “You don’t have to be a glaciologist with a micrometer to tell the difference between where you’re standing and where the glacier used to be and where the glacier is today. You can see it easily.”

“And then in places, there are a lot of parks on seashores. As the ocean gets warmer, it’s getting bigger. As things get bigger, they expand. And so the ocean is encroaching on these park lands in a way that it didn’t used to 50 years ago. Saltwater is finding its way up into what used to be freshwater preserves. And you’ll notice that ecosystems are changing. It’s the speed — that’s the problem, everybody. It’s not just that it’s changing, it’s the speed that it’s changing.”

RELATED VIDEO: Michelle Obama Talks Exploring National Parks with Daughters Sasha and Malia

As an “old outdoors guy,” Nye says he was happy to get involved when the National Park Foundation asked him to help raise awareness about the importance of visiting and preserving the country’s parks.

“What we want is to have the national parks here 100 years from now,” he says. “We want your kids to be able to visit the national parks, your grandkids to visit national parks. So we want to preserve them, we just want to raise awareness.”

But it’s not exactly “old outdoors guys” the agency is looking to awaken — it’s millennials. Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation, tells Adweek that adults between ages 18 and 35 are less interested in visiting national parks than people of other age groups — in part due to their interest in technology.

 

Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for National Park Service

So this week, Nye reached out to that demographic — many of whom grew up watching him in his ’90s hit educational show Bill Nye the Science Guy — via a platform they use in their daily lives: Facebook.

The educator and television personality joined forces with the National Park Foundation on Giving Tuesday to host a Facebook Live “View-a-Thon” fundraiser on Mashable. Proceeds from the event went to the National Park Foundation, the official charity of the National Park Service, which manages all national parks and some federal monuments in the U.S.

“We very much want millennials to embrace the national parks and appreciate them,” Nye says. “They’re the voters of the future. It’s in their hands now. And we want to preserve the national parks.”

“They’re priceless,” he adds. “Come on, people.”