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  • The Avatar Battle is Being Enacted in the Amazon

    2010 - 04.16

    Recently Director James Cameron said that a real-life ‘Avatar’ battle is being enacted in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, where indigenous groups are trying to halt the construction of a huge hydroelectric project.

    It was during an interview with The Associated Press that Cameron said that he was in Brazil’s capital to support the native people and environmental groups as they begin staging protests against the Belo Monte dam project.

    It was just last month that Cameron was in the Amazon with the former US Vice President Al Gore attending an environmental summit. His return this month was primarily to promote the release of his blockbuster film ‘Avatar’ onto DVD. In the film the fictitious Na’vi race fights to protect its homeland, the forest-covered moon, Pandora, from plans to extract a substance equivalent to oil. Cameron says he came to Brasilia on his own initiative as he was drawn to the activist’s plight.

    From the day it came out in the cinemas ‘Avatar’ has struck a chord with environmentalists all over the world, from China where millions have been displaced due to huge infrastructure projects to Bolivia, where the nation’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales praised the film for sending the message of saving the environment from exploitation.

    “I’m drawn into a situation where a real-life ‘Avatar’ confrontation is in progress,” Cameron said in a telephone interview while en route to protests taking place in front of the Mines and Energy Ministry. “What’s happening in ‘Avatar’ is happening in Brazil and places like India and China, where traditional villages are displaced by big infrastructure projects,” he added.

    If completed the $11 billion Belo Monte hydroelectric dam would be the world’s third largest. It was cleared for construction on 1st February by the Environment Ministry and bidding for prospective builders is due to take place later this month.

    It looks like it is unlikely that Cameron will be able to sway the government’s decision as the Brazilian government has already said that even should they not be able to find enough private investors for the dam’s construction then the country still has enough funds to finish the project themselves. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s administration argues that the dam will provide clean energy and is essential to meet current and future energy needs.

    Not surprisingly environmentalists are sharply opposed. They argue that it will devastate wildlife as well as the livelihoods of 40,000 people who live in the area that is scheduled to be flooded. They claim that the energy generated by the dam will go to the big mining operations in the Amazon and not to the average person.

    Cameron has said that he wrote a letter to President Silva requesting a meeting and urging him to rethink his position on the project, however he has not received a reply.

    “I wrote to him that, ‘This is an opportunity for you to be a hero, a visionary leader of the 21st century, and modify Brazil’s path in such a way that you have sustainable economic growth instead of economic growth that has serious consequences for certain sectors of the population,'” Cameron said.

    If he and Silva were able to meet Cameron said that he would tell him that he believes North America and Europe should help pay to preserve the rainforest, as it provides a service to the entire world by helping to fight global warming.

    Arguably the world’s biggest defence against global warming the Brazilian Amazon acts as carbon ‘sink’ or absorber of carbon dioxide. But it is also a great contributor to global warming as about 75% of Brazil’s emissions come from rainforest clearing.

    “If North America and Europe have been responsible for the carbon pollution that started us down this inevitable slide of global warming, then they should take financial responsibility for those services that nature naturally provides,” Cameron said.

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