Stuff Happens

Stuff Happens is a television program about the impact of our daily lives on the environment hosted by Bill Nye (also known as Bill Nye the Science Guy). The program began airing on August 25, 2008 on The Discovery Channel's Planet Green Channel. The premier season consisted of thirteen episodes.

Each episode centers around a common topic in normal life, such as "Breakfast", "Dinner", "The Office", etc. Mr. Nye deconstructs the materials and activities usual in that context and applies basic scientific methods to demonstrate the impact of the components on the environment. The common theme is that in all our activities "Stuff Happens" that most of us are not aware of and that most of this stuff has consequences that may be global in nature. The impact is evaluated in terms of greenhouse gasses generated, natural resources consumed and non-biodegradable or toxic by-products produced. There may also be discussion of the socio-economic impact inherent in a product's manufacture.

For example, in the "Dinner" episode, the Host is seen at dinner in a restaurant with a companion. There is some banter in which Mr. Nye humorously shows his social ineptitude and then launches into a discussion about the items they have ordered. The chemicals used in the usual methods of wine production are discussed and compared with those used in organic wineries. There is a breakaway to man-on-the-street interviews asking unsuspecting passers-by how they think eating a steak impacts global warming. (Answer: beef production accounts for about 20% of the methane gas discharged into the atmosphere). Mr. Nye then performs a simple lab demonstration using two bell jars with thermometers inside and air in one and methane gas in the other. We watch as the temperature in the methane jar rises at a much faster rate than in the "normal" atmosphere jar when exposed to sunlight. He also talks about the destruction of South American rain forests because of the demand for beef in the developed world, and the impact of that on the indiginous peoples of the Amazon Basin.

The episode ends with a segment called "Making Stuff Happen" in which ways we can modify our daily lives to lower the environmental impact are discussed. In the above example, he suggests we think about buying organic wines and eating less beef. The scene then breaks back to the restaurant with Mr. Nye sitting by himself, commenting that "Stuff Happens".

The programs are clearly targeted to an audience that is pre-disposed to accept statements about environmental impact at face value and who have an interest in minimizing their personal "carbon footprint", to use the current term of art. As such, it is presented in an easy-going manner with much gentle humor and little lecturing. Mr. Nye has taken the same personality and ease of presentation from his highly acclaimed "Bill Nye the Science Guy" and translated them to a new and vital topic.




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