BPEG December Meeting: Striking Balance – Beyond Sustainability in Canada’s Biosphere Reserves


Submitted by Joanne Ramsaran

Canada’s UNESCO designated biosphere reserves are all unique, facing differing challenges but all trying to find sustainable, innovative solutions to help human communities and ecosystems thrive.

Yvonne Drebert, Documentary Film & Television Producer, and Director Zach Melnick, creators of “The Bruce” documentary, showcased Season 1 of their documentary series “Striking Balance” at the December BPEG meeting.

Now at work on Season 2 of “Striking Balance,” they travelled coast to coast over 6 months, sourcing stories of the peoples living in UNESCO designated biosphere reserves and how those residents seek to balance economic growth and environmental needs.

Yvonne and Zach would drive to one location, stay for 2 to 3 weeks to film and then drive to the next locale. Finally, returning to their basement studio at their home in Miller Lake, they are now into editing the TVO series.

Each Biosphere has differing capacity, geographic characteristics and varying interpretations on what they should do. However, these groups provide a network for learning from each other and sharing ideas aimed at sustainable solutions to working and thriving in nature. 

Yvonne previewed 3 clips from Season 1:

• Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia suffered years of conflict over clear cut logging which destroyed the ability of giant Red cedars to regenerate, damaged salmon habitats and denuded the land. This “War of the Woods” protest against logging, one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in Canadian history, culminated in the creation of a Tribal Park (an indigenous watershed management area). With a 500 year view for an economic diversification strategy, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations peoples are producing value added products such as canoes and at the same time teaching these traditional skills to the next generation.

• Over 164 Grizzlies live in Waterton Biosphere Reserve, and with the bears being increasingly protected in Alberta, ranchers have to find new ways to coexist with them. The Biosphere has an active role in finding solutions to decreasing conflict. Drawing from Parks Canada’s experiences with Black Bears, the Biosphere has introduced dead animal bins with bear proof doors and raised grain hopper bins, contributing to a 95% reduction in bear problems. Key to this program is offering a compensation package to farmers/ranchers who lose livestock to bears.

• On the Bras d’Or Lake of Cape Breton Island, a parasite ravaged 90% of the oyster population. Both traditional Mi’kmaq knowledge and modern science are being applied to create disease resistant oysters and offer a viable livelihood for the human inhabitants.

Yvonne and Zach are working on Season 2, one segment will feature our very own Niagara Escarpment Biosphere. Filming will start in the new year. They are open to story ideas for this segment ([email protected]).

You can stream Season 1 from the TVO’s website (https://tvo.org/programs/striking-balance).

The next BPEG meeting will be February 6, 7:30pm at the Anglican Church Hall, Lion’s Head. Guest speaker John Festarini will provide an update on Bruce Peninsula and Fathom Five National Parks.