Friday 26 February 2010
Francesca Fiorentini (an Italian voice-over actress with a major film resume)
[this is a section from the center of the article]
As a dweller of the planet that inspired such a film, I want to register a complaint. Having been overwhelmed with the seemingly sincere message of biodiversity and resistance to injustice, I can’t escape feeling morally cheap when then encouraged to collect all the Avatar characters in McDonald’s Happy Meals. After selling our heartstrings for over $2 billion, don’t we earthlings deserve a bit more?
Beyond generalities, we might do well to take a closer look at the parallels between this film and this world. For instance, who are the Na’vi of this planet, those protagonists of the story we are brought to root for, believe in, and admire? They are those who, as you read this, are embattled in struggles for their land and livelihood.
They are the CofÃ¡n, Siona, Secoya, Kichwa and Huaorani of the Ecuadorian Amazon who are knee deep in a landmark lawsuit against oil-giant Chevron for the dumping of more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into rainforest rivers for more than 26 years. Dependent on the forests and rivers for survival — fishing, hunting, and small subsistence agriculture — the more than 30,000 inhabitants of the region now face high levels of cancer and birth defects, and many have been completely forced off their ancestral land.
They are the people of Cabañas province in northern El Salvador, who in 2008 successfully prevented Pacific Rim Mining Corp. of Canada (homeland of director James Cameron) from continuing their gold mining operation in the area. Organizations like the Environmental Committee of Cabañas say that the consequences of gold extraction, which requires the use of toxic materials like cyanide and 30,000 liters of fresh water per day, could be drastic in a country where merely a third of the water is safe to drink and thousands die each year from waterborne diseases. Pacific Rim is now suing the Salvadoran government under the Central America Free Trade Agreement for $100 million, and anti-mining organizers have been met with violent threats and assassinations. Last year three leading organizers were shot and killed: the first found in a well, the second killed in front of his daughter, and the last eight months pregnant. Though fearing for their safety, residents of Cabañas continue to protest the company’s actions, some holding signs that read simply “Yes to life.”
They are the Dayak villagers of Landak in the Indonesian rainforest and the people of Kararata in the pristine forests of Papua New Guinea, both facing displacement due to the spread of palm oil plantations. They are the indigenous Penan of the Malaysian island of Borneo, fighting industrial logging on traditional burial sites; sacred land like the gelatinous forest of the Na’vi’s Tree of Souls.
The list, unfortunately, goes on.
And in a time of dramatic climate change, swine and bird flues, and food and water scarcity thanks to the pollution and other consequences of the mining, logging, and agricultural industries, we might remember that this world’s Na’vi have been history’s greatest conservationists. Maybe they don’t ride dragons and their aesthetic appeal didn’t go through test audiences, but the indigenous of this planet have long understood the providing and regenerative nature of the Earth when treated with care.