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15-year-old Jonah Bryson Asks For Your Help

 

By Jonah Bryson

 


Imagine a place, deep in the Canadian forests of Ontario, where the environment remains relatively untouched by humans, where the multi-coloured autumn trees sway in the wind and where children play in the water from dusk to dawn. Imagine a place where the water flows spectacularly down a small waterfall as it makes its way to the ocean. This place is called Bala.

Now imagine Bala being threatened with destruction by a power plant developer, and the heart of this town being blown up for a small generating station that would make most of its power when it isn’t needed. When you visit this peaceful place, it is hard to imagine. I’ve been to Bala several times and am always welcomed by its glorious environment. I went there to work on a new film called The Fight for Bala, which I hope will inspire YOU to stop this unimaginable development before it becomes a grim and irreversible reality.

Jonah Bryson, age 4, at the Mediterranean Sea, France. © 2015
Jonah Bryson, age 4, at the Mediterranean Sea, France. © 2015

Growing up in the south of France, I visited the Mediterranean Sea during the summers. I swam and played with all the creatures that came my way, from little fish to hermit crabs. I spent all the time I could in the water with them, and realized the beauty and significance of all life on Earth.

After moving to Ontario, Canada, I lost the opportunity to visit the Mediterranean and all the other natural landscapes the south of France had to offer. But moving to a large North American city gave me the opportunity to pursue another passion of mine: entertainment. At the early age of 12, I began directing my first feature-length movie about the fight for my generation’s future and the environmental issues that threaten it. It was not long after that I tracked down some inspirational leaders I wanted to involve in the film, including space station commander Chris Hadfield, TED Prize winner and Mission Blue founder Dr. Sylvia Earle, Michael Jackson’s and Taylor Swift’s band members, and environmental filmmaker Rob Stewart.

After collaborating with me on my own movie, Rob Stewart asked whether I’d be available to work with him on a new film he was creating. Rob had been an inspiration to me for a long time, and being able to direct a film with him was a dream come true!

Film Directors Jonah Bryson (right) and Rob Stewart (left). © 2015
Film Directors Jonah Bryson (right) and Rob Stewart (left). © 2015

The small town of Bala, Muskoka is built around the Bala Falls, a picturesque waterfall in the heart of the community. On the way to the ocean, water from all the lakes in the Muskoka region passes through Bala Falls. This is an important tourist attraction the town depends on to economically survive, but it’s environmentally crucial too.

I am not fighting this development for my benefit, as my family doesn’t have any links to Muskoka. I am fighting to try to protect the world I love.

The region of Muskoka was named ‘one of the top travel destinations’ by National Geographic. It is a magnificent place. It has also been called ‘The Malibu of the North’ by The New York Times due to the number of celebrities who vacation in the region. Many amazing places in Muskoka are private and available only to those who can afford a property. Bala, however, is one of the rare places in Muskoka that everyone in the world can enjoy.

The Bala Falls in Bala, Ontario. Still from Jonah Brysonʼs and Rob Stewartʼs film The Fight For Bala. © 2015
The Bala Falls in Bala, Ontario. Still from Jonah Brysonʼs and Rob Stewartʼs film The Fight For Bala. © 2015

And that’s about to be taken away from us, for energy that would be sold at a loss to the United States. The environment won’t benefit. Bala won’t benefit. You won’t benefit. No one will benefit other than the developer, which the government of Ontario will be funding with $100 million from taxpayers over the next 40 years (not to mention how dangerous this power plant would be). At a similar power plant, a quarter of the size of the one the developer intends to build at the Bala Falls, a 16-year-old child was drowned due to the dangerous and deadly currents generated by the turbines. The construction of the power plant will affect both the landscape and the water. Rocks will be blasted, the area will be clear-cut, and the turbines will kill a lot of fish. The developer will be profiting through the destruction of this magical place.

For over 10 years, the townspeople of Bala have been battling the development, but the developer keeps going ahead without obeying the original commitments made in the contract. The problem is that this small town has a tiny population. Less than 600 residents live here, and their voices are too quiet for any decision-maker to hear.

As a 15-year-old making films and music to fight for a better world, I am all for “green energy.” There is no perfect source of power at this point in time that does not harm the environment in one way or another. Though this power plant development in Bala is a hydro dam, it will be nowhere close to “green energy.” I recently filmed wind turbines in the mountains of Germany. They were peaceful and quiet, and birds sang all around. There were solar panels all over as well – another great source of power. I believe there are much better ways of generating renewable energy that are far less destructive and dangerous.

This small town is battling a large industry. But these developers have had to cancel developments in the past because they simply made no sense. There is hope to save Bala. Since the developer has provided incorrect and misleading information, the government can now cancel this destructive power plant development at no cost – for free! The environment can remain beautiful, healthy and untouched. It’s NOT a done deal; we need your help. Please get involved and help protect this truly magnificent environment. This place matters to all of us.

Please help us save this magical town, and protect this vital waterfall that links to the ocean, at www.FightForBala.com.

Comments

  1. Michèle Kennel
    France
    August 25, 2015, 4:52 pm

    Félicitations pour cette initiative Jonah. C’est une belle bataille ! J’ai enfin pu comprendre l’article grâce à Google traduction ;-/
    Nous sommes dans le même cas pour l’Amazonie…. dont les conséquences sont innomables… Que d’intérêts uniquement privés en jeu derrière tous ces projets de centrales hydrauliques !
    Quels sont les moyens pour soutenir Bala ?

  2. Bec Crawford
    Canada
    August 17, 2015, 1:24 am

    I grew up in the Northern Ontario wilderness and it breaks my heart to hear about potential harm to Bala. Thank you for working to save our water, our species, our Earth!

  3. Cheryl Pepper
    Oakville
    August 14, 2015, 7:53 am

    Everyone. . How can you help? Go to savethebalafalls.com Thanks

  4. Brian Stewart
    Bala, Muskoka Canada
    August 13, 2015, 9:04 pm

    As a long term cottager in Bala , I can already see the damage this project is causing, businesses are closing already in fear of not getting out befire it is too late. Sop this PROJECT NOW !!
    Bala is dear to the hearts of many and needs everyone to rally around the fight to stop this senseless manipulation by big business interests and a government that refuses to act on behalf of the public.

  5. James Riordan
    Breckenridge, Quebec
    August 7, 2015, 11:06 am

    I’ve visited Bala a couple of times. It’s a wonderful place.
    Destroying the heart of the town makes no sense. Neither does giving $100 million tax payers’ dollars to the developer. Why doesn’t the Ontario government stop this madness?

  6. Leon Kushner
    Toronto Canada
    August 6, 2015, 11:46 am

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful boy’s story. As it’s my story as well. Our family has been cottaging near Bala for 3 generations and we are shocked and hurt by the insanity of this dangerous project. Our provincial government of Ontario seems to be hell bent on pushing this project down our throats. I feel like I’m fighting this battle on my own but hopefully with soldiers like Jonah and decent organizations like yours we can win this one!

  7. sandy
    canada
    August 6, 2015, 8:17 am

    amazing Jonah! keep up the fight!

  8. sandy
    toronto
    August 6, 2015, 8:02 am

    congrats! you guys are doing a great job of saving the planet….

  9. Heather Rutkowski
    Burlington, ON Canada
    August 5, 2015, 11:08 pm

    Thank you National Geographic for sharing Jonah’s article and interview. The fight to save Bala Falls is so important. Jonah is truly an inspiring hope for the future. I wish there were more 15 year olds like him!

  10. Andrew Martin
    Hollywood
    August 5, 2015, 8:42 pm

    Great article! 15yrs old?! Wow.