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Avatar Activist Director James Cameron

Blockbuster Hollywood director James Cameron said that he is committed to helping indigenous peoples around the world who, like the fictitious Na’vi in his film Avatar, are “caught at the tectonic interface between the expansion of our technical civilization into the few remaining preserves of this planet.”

Several months after the release of Avatar, which quickly became the top grossing film of all time, and two days after the release of the DVD on Earth Day, Cameron was invited to speak at two events on April 24 that were associated with the Ninth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues taking place in New York City from April 19-30.

Special Achievements: 

James Cameron joins the panel discussion, “Real Life ‘Pandoras’ on Earth: Indigenous Peoples Urgent Struggles For Survival,” held at the Paley Center for Media in Midtown Manhattan April 24, 2010. Also on the panel from left to right: Tonya Gonnella Frichner, co-chair and North American Regional Representative of U. N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; Karmen Ramirez Boscan, representing Wayu communities in Colombia; Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper, Onondaga Nation and board member of the Seventh Generation Fund; and Atossa Soltani, executive director of Amazon Watch

Testimonies / Comments: 

“Indigenous territories contain the vast majority of the world’s resources and biodiversity — forests, oil, goal, uranium,” said panel moderator Atossa Soltani, the executive director of Amazon Watch. “Basically this is why they are now the last stand.”

Cameron recently took up this duty by joining Amazon Watch on a tour in Brazil learn more about the standoff to stop the Bela Monte hydrological dam complex, which would dam the Xingu River and displace some 25,000 local indigenous people and flood a large swath of the rainforest, which would release methane, the most potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere as the trees decay.

“James Cameron has brought an international spotlight to that battle and it has really made a difference,” Soltani said. “The dam auction was happening last week and this would have been utterly unreported by the media.”

Cameron’s trip to Brazil made some in the media wonder if the director was not becoming a real-life “Jake Sully.” Sully is the movie’s lead character, a former Marine from Earth employed by a mining company operating on a distant planet Pandora who ultimately ends up switching sides to help the Na’vi save their land from exploitation.

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