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Science journalist and CBC Radio host Bob McDonald speaks in Kimberley

McDonald serves as keynote speaker for Innovation Fair at McKim Middle School
Author, science journalist and CBC Radio host Bob McDonald speaks at McKim Middle School’s theatre in Kimberley on Monday, May 13, as part of an Innovation Fair. Paul Rodgers photo.

On Monday, May 13 Kimberley’s McKim Middle School hosted an innovation fair, centred around the themes of Water; Transportation, Building, Food, Nature and Energy, and featured author, science journalist and CBC Radio host Bob McDonald as the keynote speaker.

McDonald’s illustrious career spans four decades and includes countless accolades and achievements. In addition to regularly hosting The National, he is the host of CBC Radio’s award-winning science program Quirks & Quarks, which draws a weekly audience of around half a million people.

He has authored four books on science, contributed to many other science textbooks, magazines and newspapers and has received twelve honourary Doctorates and two honourary college degrees.

McDonald spoke twice during the day, once in the morning to a group of students and once in the evening, for a combined total of nearly 900 attendees.

The event was a huge collaboration featuring students from Kimberley and Cranbrook schools, the Cities of Kimberley and Cranbrook and their Chambers of Commerce and numerous East Kootenay companies and organizations.

Students showcased their own projects alongside organizations like Living Lakes, Rocky Mountain Naturalists, Infinity Solar, the BC Wildlife Federation, Wildsight, the Kootenay Climate Hub and many, many more.

Sue-Anne Banks, Indigenous Lead with Farm to Cafeteria Canada, ran a booth at the event and called it, “An exciting day of innovation, community connection and student engagement.”

“Having the opportunity to sit with the folks in Food and Health, from my role as Indigenous School Food Circle Coordinator with Farm to Cafeteria Canada and the Coalition for Healthy School Food, gave me a chance to connect with students and hear their perspectives and experiences about what they like and are being served in their school food programs,” Banks said.

“The provincial government announced $214 million in the 2023 budget for the Feeding Futures fund for school food programming in BC. The 2024 federal budget most recently included $1 billion for a National School Food Policy.”

The event was organized by Wildsight educator Patty Kolesnichenko and Jen Meens, Outdoor and Environmental Educator at Selkirk Secondary School.

“The feedback from participants, of all ages, and innovators was so positive,” Kolesnichenko told the Bulletin. “The connections between innovators was a big piece and showcasing all the organization, business, youth art and projects, was so well received.”

In his presentation at McKim’s theatre, McDonald, who first started covering the climate back in 1977, discussed his 2022 book “The Future is Now: Solving the Climate Crisis with Today’s Technologies,” which he said he wrote because after spending so much time hearing bad news about the climate, he was getting depressed.

To help assuage these feelings, McDonald decided to stop looking at the problems and started focusing on the solutions.

“How can we deal with this? One of the ways is through technology,” McDonald said. “And it turns out that we already know how to do it.”

McDonald’s presentation was lively, informative, often hilarious and, most importantly, hopeful. He focused on the remarkable new technologies created by companies all over the world that are working on solving the energy problem.

He touched on companies who are working on new ways to get the energy out of oil, using hydrogen to power aircrafts, creating better batteries and coming up with new ways of storing energy. He discussed numerous ways solar farming is becoming better and more efficient. For example, he touched on farms that have hanging panels, or install panels along canals to decrease the amount of farmland loss to solar farming.

He talked about clear solar panels that could be used as windows on skyscrapers and a company developing paint that captures light energy, so you could paint your house with it.

Wind power, which has been around for centuries, is also becoming bigger and better, with the largest ones now at around 250 metres tall and installed out in the ocean. He also talked about the ways in which nuclear power is becoming safer, smaller and is now being used to power small towns.

To conclude his presentation, McDonald showed the famous Earthrise photograph, taken by astronaut William Anders in 1968, the first image that showed humanity the earth as a single, living unit. He used this to highlight just how rare and special our planet is, a “little oasis of life” amidst an endless universe that is “violent and deadly.”

Because of this, humans need to start buying into green energy in a bigger way. Using examples like the evolution in technology of the telephone to a modern cell phone, or of the technology we use to play music, he said that people just haven’t bought in to energy in the same way yet.

“We’ve done that with so many other forms of technology, we haven’t done it with energy,” he said. “So let’s take this 150 year old technology and move ahead. There’s a wonderful saying: ‘The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stone.’”

McDonald also mentioned disinformation as a hindrance to the progress of green energy technologies.

Kimberley City Councillor Sue Cairns said she felt McDonald’s message was “loud and clear.”

“A key barrier Bob noted is disinformation,” Cairns said. “This is something that’s important to talk about because it’s everywhere and it’s spun to be much easier to understand than the facts.

“Disinformation is generated by vested interests that work to prevent solutions since they make money by keeping things the same, even when it compromises our future. So what’s the best way to decide what’s true? Check your sources. Don’t rely on what you hear in your bubble or on social media.”

You can purchase a copy of McDonald’s book “The Future is Now” at Arrow and Axe in Kimberley.

The Innovation Fair at McKim Middle School. Paul Rodgers photo.
The Innovation Fair at McKim Middle School. Paul Rodgers photo.
The Innovation Fair at McKim Middle School. Paul Rodgers photo.

About the Author: Paul Rodgers

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