James Cameron’s Avatar is more than just allegory. The action isn’t happening on Pandora in the far future; it’s happening right here, right now, on Earth; anyone who can’t see this has their eyes wide shut.
‘A message from Pandora‘ is a special feature that appears in full on the Extended Collector’s Edition of Avatar. This feature includes a brief statement from Sheyla Yakarepi Juruna, an ardent campaigner against the Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu (one of the great tributaries of the Amazon River). This dam is just one in a chain of dozens of dams the Brazilian government proposes to build throughout the Amazon, threatening environmental catastrophe and massive disruption to the local communities who have lived there in peace for thousands of years.
And for what? Mainly to provide power to the extractive minerals industry, which exists to supply us with ever more sexy throwaway widgetry.
I believe that Sheyla and her people have as much right to insist on retaining their customary way of life as anyone else on our planet. And, though current practises (of riding roughshod over the interests of those who get in the way of business as usual) would make it seem that I’m in a minority, I do not believe that ‘might makes right’.
Sheyla is highly vocal and passionate about what she refers to as a project of death and destruction. “The Belo Monte dam will have serious environmental and territorial consequences for our peoples,” she says; and I would agree with the use of the term ‘peoples’, plural: hers and ours.
Quite apart from the local humanitarian considerations, tampering with the ecology of the rainforest just to generate energy is sheer lunacy. The Amazonian rainforest is commonly referred to as ‘the lungs of the Earth’, with good reason, as the Amazon rainforest replenishes a fifth of the planet’s oxygen. We tinker with the air that we breathe at our peril.
There are better ways. We just need to wake up to them.
What’s needed here is
the human race needs to wake up
and look forward with a sense that
we’ve got to change the way we live.
And I’m not saying that we have to
abandon the cities, strip off all our clothes
and try to run out into the forest
and live like the Kayapo
— that’s not going to work,
and the Kayapo don’t want us there —
plus we wouldn’t know how to do it;
we’ve severed the connection
to the ancient knowledge that’s necessary to do that.
And we don’t have to do that.
What we have to do is
we have to transform ourselves yet again
into something that’s never existed on this planet before,
which is a kind of ‘techno-indigenous’ people.
We have all our technology.
We’ll use high technology and science
to provide us with the energy that we need;
but they’ll be sustainable solutions.
Nature is not our enemy, it’s our sustenance;
and we need it, and we need nature healthy
for us to be healthy and to survive long term.
That’s the realization that we have to come to;
that’s the next stage of evolution that we have to reach.
— James Cameron, in ‘A message from Pandora’.
Sooner or later, you have to wake up.