Avatar and The Reality of Sustainability

I just finished seeing James Cameron’s new blockbuster movie Avatar, an amazing piece of film making that imagines what a world and culture based completely on sustainable living would be like.

The story takes place 150 years or so in the future on a planet called Pandora, a forested utopia populated by a humanoid species called the Na’vi, as well as a variety of exotic and often luminescent flora and fauna, all living in a harmonious balance. Of planet earth, Cameron said recently that “Science is unable to keep up with our industrial society. We are destroying species faster than we can classify them.” This movie seems designed to show what we are missing out on. It is a beautiful vision to behold (especially in IMAX 3D).

Several reviewers have pointed out that the Na’vi culture and way of life bear a strong resemblance to those of many Native American tribes and other indigenous peoples. And just as Europeans did in the new world, the earth folks show up on Pandora to mine a rare ore, and consider everything else ready to be bulldozed, blasted, or relocated. Where the Na’vi see abundance, the earthlings see only a hostile world to be exploited and tamed.

The main character – a former Marine named Jake – is sent to Pandora to participate in a science project to learn about the Na’vi by literally going native: he controls a cloned body and becomes one. Jake and a few other non-conformist humans on Pandora (generally the scientists) learn to appreciate and are eventually forced to defend the Na’vi and their way of life. It is a simple good vs evil tale, with natives, intellectuals, and greens on one side, and a profit-driven military-industrial complex on the other.

If only real life were so unambiguous! The obvious irony of the storyline is that the only way humans learn about the Na’vi’s low-tech and ecologically balanced lifestyle is by space travel, cloning, and sophisticated neural networking. The irony of the film itself is that Cameron had to lean entirely on new technologies to create and deliver it. Like most of us, Cameron and his hero long for Eden even as they takes another bite from the forbidden fruit. The greatest potential failure for the sustainability/green movement is ignoring both the benefits and irreversibility of progress. Whether it is traveling by air to learn more about our planet or negotiate a climate treaty, making crops more productive, or advances is health and wellness, there seems to be no going back.

I suppose it’s all about balance. If modern man can’t live like the Na’vi, at least we can recognize when we have thrown our own world and lives too far out of balance. Not surprisingly, there is a better word in the Hopi language to describe this than there is in English: Koyaanisqatsi.

Photo copyright: Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/officialavatarmovie/ Not for sale or redistribution. Property of 20th Century Fox, all rights reserved. 

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215 comments

Rose-Marie Grobbelaar

Has mankind not yet realized (and I am talking about the intelligent and educated ones) that while humans breed at the alarming rate they are, earth will never be safe. Slowly but surely the destruction of earth and extinction of all its's species, except humans, will be a cold and bitter reality. And because mankind is such a aggressive and warlike specie, one can only hope that the invasion of another planet will not be possible.

Amy C.
Amy C.5 months ago

I absolutely love the movie. There just be more like it

Carole R.
Carole R.5 months ago

Thanks for posting.

Lawrence D.
Lawrence D.5 months ago

Thanks.

Fi T.
Fi T.5 months ago

The only means to life and future

Julia Oleynik
Julia Oleynik5 months ago

This film is masterpiece of our culture I think.
Thank you for sharing =)

Ganaisha Calvin
Ganaisha Calvin2 years ago

interesting article. thanks for sharing.

Vivianne Mosca-Clark

The movie was Superior. The whole production of it. The theme is one i hope people will understand. Because we do have vibrating molecules in and around our self. And they all can be in harmony...as beautiful music is.
Plants do feel what we think...in general terms...they hurt and get scared also. I go as far as to think they can 'care' for a human. The movie is not so far off of what is real on our planet. That is one movie I would buy to see over and over again.

Vivianne Mosca-Clark

The movie was Superior. The whole production of it. The theme is one i hope people will understand. Because we do have vibrating molecules in and around our self. And they all can be in harmony...as beautiful music is.
Plants do feel what we think...in general terms...they hurt and get scared also. I go as far as to think they can 'care' for a human. The movie is not so far off of what is real on our planet. That is one movie I would buy to see over and over again.

Leanne Berghuis
Leanne Berghuis3 years ago

Avatar definitely a metaphor for how mankind treats this planet!