‘Avatar’ gets it right on conservation lessons

James Cameron’s latest movie, “Avatar,” is affecting America far more than a nation-wide increase of popcorn sales. There are plenty of reasons why this is the highest grossing film of all time, but I’m raving about the movie because this film promotes the values of human connection to the earth and the importance of caring for people for our planet.

Critics across the country are praising the film for its sexy blue aliens (the Na’vi), incredible special effects and beauty of the plant-lush planet called Pandora that would make the founders of The Wilderness Society weep with joy. Box office sales prove the futuristic movie has everything to hold the attention of even the busiest of Americans. However, the film’s strong theme of human connection to land jumps out far more than the 3D flying beasts that the protagonist tames.

Sigourney Weaver, one of the many stars in the film, portrays a scientist who is appropriately named Grace. Grace is a curious woman seeking to understand the planet of Pandora and the Na’vi’s connection to it. She argues vehemently with a businessman from the Resource Development Administration, the not-so-subtly named Selfridge. Selfridge sees the value of the Pandora only for its rare element “unobtanium,” that is located beneath the Na’vi people’s tree home. A blatant reference for fossil fuel, unobtanium is the main source of energy for the human race in the year 2154.

Avatar movieGrace goes to great lengths to get through Selfridge’s corporate skull how important the connection the Na’vi people have with their land, and how it is not worth destroying their habitat in order to obtain unobtanium.

“There’s some kind of electrochemical communication between the roots of the trees. Like the synapses between neurons,” Grace explains to Selfridge. “That’s more connections than the human brain. You get it? It’s a network — a global network. And the Na’vi can access it!”

“What the hell have you people been smoking out there? They’re just (expletive) trees,” Our greedy antagonist Selfridge responds.

In these brief interactions, the dialogue between these two characters has surpassed fantasy jargon and instead presented what I believe are two completely different schools of thought on current conservation issues.

It is my hope that people don’t watch “Avatar” merely for visual stimulation from the super-high-tech graphics. Grace’s passion for connecting to the earth can’t be overlooked. Just watching the fantasy parts of the film gave me a deep desire to travel to the eastern forests of the Carolinas where I come from. I don’t know if the connection I feel is a scientifically proven electrochemical communication, but I relate to the Na’vi people in the film anyway. I recognize that when I have soil at my feet and trees above me, I feel a sense of understanding, connectedness, and spirituality. My friends at The Wilderness Society recognize this connectedness as well, and we know it’s our job to ensure others identify with this feeling too.

I hope every person who watches “Avatar” to discover the conservation values the film instills. Recognizing our connection with the earth is the first and most important step towards taking better care of it in the future.