'Avatar': The plot Chevron knows all too well.
James Cameron has been really turning up the environmental rally cries lately. He is going full speed ahead in turning 'Avatar' into a catalyst for environmental activism.
In a recent interview with MTV news Cameron said:
"If you're tuned in to what's happening in 'Avatar,' you start to feel a sense of moral outrage when you see the tree fall [destroying the Na'vi's home], and it's a compassionate response for these people," Cameron explained. "Then you feel a sense of uplift at the end as good vanquishes evil. If you put those two things together, it actually creates a ripe emotional matrix for people to want to do something about it."
'Avatar' certainly was an emotional matrix as CNN reports around the movie told stories of people leaving the film with depression and despair. A large part of these feelings, I assume, come from a perceived sense of inability to act, however Cameron is trying to change that. James Cameron is calling on Avatar to be a catalyst for people to become involved in supporting the communities that share similar circumstances in the plot of Avatar, and people are taking notice.
Just yesterday a post on the San Francisco Chronicle generated a heated discussion about how the Chevron Corporation has embodied the role of evil exploitative corporation in Ecuador. Chevron is responsible for over 900 unlined oil pits, 18 billion gallons of dumped toxic water waste, and millions of gallons or dumped crude in Amazon communities. These operations have left over 30,000 people to deal with cancer, birth defects, and polluted water in their communities. Texaco (bought by Chevron) went into the Ecuadorean rainforest to get as much oil as possible at any human/environmental cost. They have since left a toxic trail while out of the polluted landscape they created.
The SF post’s author Becky Tarbotton takes up Cameron’s call to action and says:
Avatar (or unil-tÃ¬ran-tokx in Na'vi) has been nominated for 9 Oscars. James Cameron, its infamous creator, has explicitly said he wants the highest grossing film in history to inspire mass environmental activism. What if in his acceptance speech James Cameron mentioned the real-life Indigenous Ecuadorean heroes who are battling the real-life Chevron bad guys?
She then adds a call to action: Retweet and help make it happen! I want Avatar director James Cameron to mention real-life Ecuador struggle against #Chevron at #Oscars: http://bit.ly/aOwuNI #realavatar
While the movie has caught the eye of environmental groups, it has also caught the eye of Indigenous communities in Ecuador. Recently Indigenous leaders, many of who’s communities are impacted by oil operations, bussed to see Avatar in Ecuador’s capital Qutio.
Achuar leader Luis Vargas thoughtfully critiques the film, and also sees it’s value.
“This is a Hollywood movie, so it’s practically a given that a mestizo comes to the defense and leads [the people] to triumph in the end...Think of how much better it would be if we showed this film to people who actually want to exploit petroleum. I think it would serve them very well, even more than us.”
It remains to be seen if Avatar will move beyond just a movie that stimulated decision to the one that inspires us to act in solidarity with impacted communities. Yet, one thing is certain. When you take the plot line of Avatar and look at the struggles like the ones against Chevron in Ecuador, you realize that directly impacted communities have been acting for a very long time, not because of a movie, but because their survival depends on it.
If you are inspired to take action you can join campaigns supporting communities in Ecuador living with Chevron's toxic legacy.