From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published December 23, 2009 03:59 PM

Avatar and the Fight To Live

In James Cameron's newest film Avatar an alien tribe on a distant planet fights to save their forest home from human invaders bent on mining the planet. The natives win because the planet literally fights off the invaders and not just the native defenders.

For decades real indigenous tribes around the world have faced off with corporations determined to exploit their land. These corporations, much like the company in the film, usually have support from the government and access to armed security forces. Yet unlike the film, in which the natives triumph over the invaders, the real life stories of indigenous tribes rarely end with victory.

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Back on Earth similar actions occur. They range from crude violence to peaceful protests with many a lawsuit in the courts.

In June 2009, violence erupted in Peru as heavily-armed police clashed with unarmed indigenous protesters.

The indigenous tribes were protesting harsh new rules designed to aid the development of the area to make it easier for foreign companies to exploit oil, gas, timber, and minerals on indigenous land. 23 police officers and at least 10 indigenous people were killed with the normal allegations of cover up. Bodies were allegedly dumped in rivers. 

82 other protesters suffered gunshot wounds and 120 in total were injured in the melee.

Just weeks after the bloody incident, Texas-based Hunt Oil, with full support of the Peruvian government, moved into the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve with helicopters and large machinery for seismic testing. The seismic testing alone involves 300 miles of testing trails, over 12,000 explosive charges, and 100 helicopter land pads in the middle of a largely-untouched and unknown region of the Amazonian rain forest. Indigenous groups say they were never properly consulted by Hunt Oil for use of their land.

Still Peruvian President Garcia says that he plans to move forward with controversial oil and gas development on tribal lands in the Amazon.  As to who is right, it is hard to tell.

In the Avatar film the natives (Na'vi) are dismissed as "blue monkeys" and "savages" by the corporate administrator. This is a common phenomena of many human cultures. Those who are stange or different are derided and insulted for that very reason. Both the corporation and their hired soldiers view the Na'vi as less than human. (Technically of course this is a correct statement. The Na'vi are sentient humanoids and not human. Whether they were less or not is another question which, since they won, the answer is more not less.)

In Malaysia and the Amazon rain forests have been harvested at a record pace since the 1980's.

The Malaysian natives, Penan, have fought corporate loggers through lawsuits and road barricades. In turn they faced violence from Malaysian police and security forces hired by powerful logging companies. In 2008 longtime Penan chief, Kelesau Naan, was allegedly murdered for his long activism against logging on tribal lands. Prior to this, two Penan activists disappeared mysteriously in the 1990s and Swiss-activist, Bruno Manser, who fought long and hard for Penan rights, vanished in the region in 2000.

A battle of a different kind is ongoing in Ecuador. Oil giant Chevron is currently in a $27 billion lawsuit with Ecuadorian indigenous tribes for environmental damage caused by Texaco, a company acquired by Chevron in 2001. In court Texaco has admitted to dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic waste inside Ecuador's rain forest from 1964-1990. A court expert found contamination at every one of Texaco's former well sites, estimating oil damages 30 times larger than the infamous Exxon-Valdez spill and spanning an area the size of Rhode Island.

The lawsuit has been ongoing since 2003 and a ruling has not yet been made. Lawsuits take a long time to conclude and by then the litigants may be deceased from old age.

While the film Avatar ends with the primitive Na'vi winning, usually this does not happen. Those with more money, more guns, and more people usually win.   This has happen throughout history.

Avatar is a great film with an important social message about protecting the environment and living with it. What it also shows is that all cultures have something to gain if they cooperate with each other. The problem lies with the ability to get this to happen. It is far easier to club the other side into submission.

For more information go to:  http://news.mongabay.com/2009/1222-hance_avatar.html

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