“Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World” by Bill Nye

Date Wed, August 2 2017

While Bill focused on convincing the reader that evolution was real, Unstoppable seems less like a debate piece. Bill does take time to discuss and explain climate change (he compares the Earth to our physical homes, which require upkeep), but the assumption is that global warming is real. Most of the arguing on Bill’s part is about how serious climate change is and how quickly we need to do something about it.

Because the book comes across as less persuasive than Undeniable, it makes an interesting read if you’re already of the mind that climate change is possible but wondering what real-world steps can be taken to slow it down or even reverse global warming. Much of Unstoppable is dedicated to the possible steps. I say “possible” because there’s no easy answer or single solution, and Bill is honest about this throughout the pages. He discusses possible options, some of which involve fledgling technologies and may not work as hoped. And he reiterates that it’s going to take a combination of these efforts to make a change.

Some of the ideas he discusses are further reliance on solar and wind energy and why natural gas is only slightly better than coal (methane is worse for the ozone than carbon), so we should only rely on it while moving closer to sustainable energy solutions. He doesn’t shy away from the dangers of nuclear power or the issues that wind turbines cause to wildlife (although, he fails to mention the same for solar farms and birds). Bill Nye outlines the risks and some possible solutions when he can. When he can’t, he points out why those risks might be worthwhile.

But Unstoppable contains a whole slew of potential solutions that aren’t as obvious — from lightening blacktop to creating bubbles on the surfaces of large bodies of water to moving away from streets to traveling via the Hyperloop to living closer to urban areas to reduce your carbon footprint. Not all of these ideas are obvious, and Nye debunks some of the seemingly-obvious solutions that wouldn’t actually work.

Bill Nye also discusses not just the creation of energy but the storage and transfer of energy in easy-to-understand words. The reader is able to appreciate how even when you can produce a lot of energy, being able to access it where you need it is a problem.

Throughout¬†“Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World,” Bill describes possible solutions to climate change from an engineer’s point of view. And this is one of my favorite parts of the book. In the latter half of the book, Bill details the changes he’s made to his property and home — a modest property that he’s extensively updated to be more green. Not-so-coincidentally, those changes have paid off big for the science guy.

I found this section particularly interesting because Bill hasn’t just added solar panels to his roof (he has — and smart ones at that), but he’s also adjusted his fireplace to be more efficient, switched to a solar water heater and an efficient hot water system, turned his yard into a dry landscape (as well as a garden), swapped windows to those that left light filter in while blocking heat and uses small, focused skylights instead of light fixtures. This fixture not only opens a window into Bill’s mind as an engineer and a tinkerer who is often hands-on when it comes to these projects, but it shows the different options that exist for homeowners who are interested in

This section not only opens a window into Bill’s mind as an engineer and a tinkerer who is often hands-on when it comes to these projects, but it shows the different options that exist for homeowners who are interested in living a more green lifestyle (and ultimately reaping the benefits from themselves).¬†Bill discusses some of the challenges from upfront cost to difficulty acquiring certain materials, but it’s all interesting.

I only wish those sections came with pictures, if not of his home then of similar setups, so readers could get a better idea. But Bill paints a pretty good picture with his words. I found myself excitedly talking about the technologies and solutions he mentions to anyone who mentions.

In fact, I like Unstoppable enough that I think I’ll buy it (I checked out the ebook through my library), so I can reference it again and again!

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