Director James Cameron received his Golden Globes awar
ds for `Avatar' yesterday, and revealed one of the central ideas of the film.
`Avatar asks us to see that everything is connected,' he said in his acceptance speech. `All human beings to each other, and us to the earth.'
Yet the futuristic story of an indigenous tribe living in harmony with nature and facing the decimation of their community and their ancestral lands by aggressive invaders is not only a fantasy.
Like the Na'vi of `Avatar', the world's last-remaining tribal peoples - from the Amazon to Siberia - are also at risk of extinction, as their lands are appropriated by powerful forces for profit-making reasons such as colonization, logging and mining.
Like the Na'vi, tribal peoples are discriminated against by a world that believes them to be backward because they do not aspire to the ways of life of industrialized countries and often choose to rely, as they have done for millennia, on their natural environments to survive.
Just as the Na'vi describe the forest of Pandora as `their everything', for most tribal peoples, life and land have always been deeply connected.
Many tribal peoples believe that a sustainable attitude to the caretaking of the earth is essential. It is ironic that while the Arctic melts, the seas rise, the rainforests burn - as ecosystems are damaged beyond repair - so the peoples with a detailed understanding of them are also threatened, such as the Jarawa, who inhabit the Andaman Islands' last remaining tracts of virgin rainforest.
James Cameron added, `If you have to go four and half light years to another made up planet to appreciate this miracle of a world we have here - that's the wonder of cinema.'
One of the best ways of protecting the miracle of our world's natural heritage is to secure the land rights of indigenous peoples.
A full version of this article is available for publication from Survival International. Contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or firstname.lastname@example.org