TOUTLE, Wash. (KOIN) — Worlds collided Thursday at Mount St. Helens when Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was joined by Bill Nye “the Science Guy” to promote outdoor education and to encourage people to get the COVID-19 vaccination.
Inslee and Nye spent time at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, which has been closed to the public for more than a year due to the pandemic, where they listened to an informational outdoor presentation on the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens and met with US Forest Service members and staff with the Mount St. Helens Institute.
The governor promoted the concept of making outdoor school available to all Washington students, following a similar approach adopted in Oregon where fifth and sixth-grade students have the opportunity for immersive experiences in nature.
“We have done the first appropriation at my request last year, to appropriate millions of dollars to start this process, so we are starting this process as we speak,” Inslee said. “This is an issue of equity. A lot of kids get this experience because their parents can afford it or because their parents grew up in it. We want every child to have this. This ought to be a birthright for everybody in Washington state. So when we get to that point, it’s going to be a great day for equity as well as the environment.”
Inslee said outdoor and recreation experiences have the power to change the lives of young students, helping them become connected to nature, motived to understand science and better able to develop relationships with their teachers and classmates.
“Once a young child gets into nature — one day, one overnight — they’re bit forever and they understand it,” Inslee said. “And right now we need people who understand the power of climate change and we need people who understand public health and so having kids have an outdoor experience is really important.”
Inslee also spoke about Washington’s ongoing efforts to combat the coronavirus and addressed concerns about the delta variant.
“Everybody who is not vaccinated, it does two things: it endangers everybody they love, their family members, the people that they care about, are endangered because they’re not vaccinated,” Inslee said. “And number two: we have to understand the science is clear, for the people who are not vaccinated, they’re kind of like bio-weapon laboratories because they allow the mutation of these viruses because they’re not vaccinated. We do not want to go back, we do not want to see more funerals, we do not want to lose more loved ones. So we are encouraging people to get vaccinated.”
The governor said the state’s lottery has been effective in getting un-vaccinated people interested in the shot.
“Get your vaccination in before the lottery and you’re eligible,” he said. “But you’re eligible for something more important and that is you can sleep at night knowing you’re not endangering the people you love and that’s something I think we all care about.”
Inslee expressed his worries about the delta variant, saying that thousands of Washington residents are “targets” for the variant because they have not been vaccinated.
“The delta variant is chasing them — those who do not have the vaccination today have a target on their backs. So we’re trying to help people get vaccinated, we’re trying to help them understand that the vaccinations are incredibly effective, a medical miracle, they’re very safe and we want to save lives,” he said.
Nye, a longtime household name in science education, reinforced the need for vaccinations. Nye explained that the current spread of the delta variant is a result of variations of the coronavirus mutating inside unvaccinated human hosts.
“As the saying goes, the delta variant will find you. If you’re not vaccinated, it will find you,” he said. “Cut it out everybody, get vaccinated. It’s not fair to not get vaccinated.”
Inslee and Nye both expressed their belief that shaping a society that respects science and public health starts with providing immersive outdoor experiences for young people.
“We want every child in the state of Washington to have access to outdoor education. When we have that, we’re gonna have a crop of conservationists who are going to rock the world of environmental law,” said Inslee.
“We’re all in this together: the delta variant, climate change, redistributing wealth so that everybody has a high quality of life. We are all in this together,” Nye said. “So let’s get out there and change the world!”