Bob McDonald

Bob McDonald

The little ball called planet Earth

CBC science host giving a talk at Pearson College in Metchosin

His voice is usually heard plumbing the depths of science on CBC radio, but on Saturday celebrated science journalist Bob McDonald will be throwing his support behind the Metchosin Foundation.

McDonald, host of the Saturday show Quirks & Quarks, is giving a free public talk at Pearson College about the fragile nature of the little blue marble called Earth. The talk is the prelude to the Metchosin Foundation’s annual general meeting.

“I want to talk about how tiny our planet is, how little air surrounds it, how little water is available to humans, how little land and how all our resources are under increasing pressure to produce,” McDonald said in a release.

“It has taken thousands of years of science and technology to figure out that we live on a ball, and only in living memory have we been able to get a view of it from afar.”

Metchosin Foundation president Chris Pratt said “it’s quite a coup” for the organization to land Canada’s most well known science journalist. “I’m biting my nails that there will be enough seats,” he said, half joking.

“We’re fortunate to have had Robert Bateman speak, and now Bob McDonald,” said foundation treasurer Moralea Milne. “We are excited he’s able to come out and support the foundation.”

The foundation formed in 2009 with an eye on promoting environmental stewardship in Metchosin, and also to work with landowners to enter ecologically rich properties into conservation covenants.

“We are trying to keep Metchosin a green and beautiful place, and keeping it a good place to live,” said Pratt, a retired navy captain. “Helping old people and young people, and everyone in between have a healthy community in a beautiful setting is the lofty purpose.”

Foundation members have been working with a private landowner for the past two years to establish a conservation covenant on part of a 30-acre property, and is approaching a at least two others to do the same.

Covenants preserve land in perpetuity, but they don’t come cheap for the landowner.

The foundation is raising money to cover surveying and future monitoring costs for the landowner. Milne herself completed an environmental inventory of the 30-acre property.

“There needs to be provisions for annual visits to be sure the covenant is respected,” Pratt said. “Perpetuity is a long time, and it’s a heavy financial commitment.”

The foundation also supported Metchosin’s “Bio Blitz” last year, the first comprehensive survey of animal and plant species in the district.

A second “Blitz” is planned for May 5. Metchosin is home to a number of scientists and researchers, including noted B.C. ecologist Andy MacKinnon. It was through him that McDonald agreed to speak in Metchosin.

It also helps that McDonald’s commute is shorter than it used to be — he relocated to Victoria from Toronto last summer. With with help of three producers, he continues to produce Quirks & Quarks from the basement of his home in Fairfield.

A translator for science

Since his days working at the Ontario Science Centre in the 1970s, where he was occasionally asked to comment on local news programs, McDonald has demonstrated a knack for parsing complex science into stories the public finds interesting and understandable.

“I see myself as a translator between people who speak a foreign language – science – and the person on the street. Sometimes when I get a guest who (uses) scientific jargon, I’ll stop the tape and say we have to speak in plain English,” McDonald says. “It’s not dumbing it down. It’s clarifying. It’s making it clear, so that it’s understandable because that’s our job.

“It’s not about me. It’s about the stories. I just happen to have an entertaining way of telling the stories that people like. As journalists we offer stories. We’re not handing out PhDs; we’re entertaining people.”

—with files from Natalie North

When & Where

Metchosin Foundation presents Bob McDonald on March 24, 7 p.m., Max Bell Theatre at Pearson College, 650 Pearson College Drive. Entry is free. See