We Are Connected...
So, I saw Avatar 2: The Way of Water on Christmas Day. After thirteen years of waiting and wondering, at last James Cameron has taken us back to Pandora, and when it's all said and done, it was worth the wait. What we have here is a spectacular alien ocean adventure with unprecedented CGI. The story is perhaps not the most original, but you're crazy if you leave the theatre without having a good time. I eagerly await Avatar 3 (though with our luck, it'll probably be out in 2035...)
What I have always appreciated about the Avatar series is that it has a strong environmental message. Pandora is a breathtaking world being ravaged by unchecked deforestation, mining and whaling. Directly tied to this is the plight of the indigenous Na'vi. Not only is the Na'vi's home threatened, their religion and culture--indeed their whole way of life--is in jeopardy. These conflicts may be set on another planet, but they are not alien to our world. Every day more of our natural world is ripped up in the name of profit, and so many indigenous peoples with deep ties to their land have been abused, oppressed...even wiped out altogether.
Avatar is far from the first story to sound the alarm on these issues. Princess Mononoke is a powerful animated film about how war and overdevelopment of our natural resources will destroy everything. Fern Gully puts magical fairies in Australia against greedy lumberjacks with high-tech machinery. Disney's Pocahontas may be wildly untrue to the story of the Powhatan princess (for starters, Pocahontas was a nickname, her real name was Matoax!) but it does encourage people to think about the wealth of nature and the hideous attitudes the colonists held. Both children and adults need these stories, because they help us to face the music. Our world is in trouble. Indigenous people are suffering. We need to make this stop, NOW!
But, I fear that these stories have not gone far enough. I don't mean they aren't preachy enough (some would argue Fern Gully is too preachy...). What I mean is, they don't ever say why nature is important. Not one of the movies I've mentioned really explains the full scope of destroying nature.
Oh, sure, you see blasted wastelands and homeless animals. You see tribal villages burned, and you hear sermons on the great Balance of Nature. This is all very important, don't get me wrong, but critical details are missing. What are the real consequences of clearcutting a forest, ecologically speaking? What does it do to the region, and ultimately to us? How does killing a whale leave a hole in the ecosystem that harms other species? What really happens we displace an entire tribe just so we can tear up their minerals? By just saying, "This is bad, don't do that!", people are more likely to nod half-heartedly and then switch the channel to something else. Seeing people and animals in pain SHOULD be enough...but if that were true, Fern Gully would have killed logging decades ago.
We need to do more for nature, and a good place to start is to explain why. These movies talk about how things are connected, but only show that connection on emotional or spiritual levels. Again, all of that is important, but we need the physical connections, too. I wish movies would take a minute for a character to explain how deforestation damages the air we all breathe, or how killing sharks affects fish populations we depend on for food, or how forcing people from their homes is not only wrong by itself, but also destroys an entire way of viewing the universe that is no less valid than our own.
You can take this exercise into your own life on a smaller but no less important scale. Consider how the plastic bag you throw away contributes to microplatic pollution in our drinking water, or how leaving your phone charger plugged in all the time burns that much more fossil fuels. Keep in mind a rainforest burned on another continent will affect the air and temperature on your continent.
Hopefully Avatar 3 will give us more insights into how living things are connected. In any case, don't forget that we truly are connected to the planet, even in our modern era. And let no one tell you otherwise, we can make things better.
In other news, I have a few announcements I'm totally psyched for! --My short story "Beads of Death and Love" is now available in NewMyths Winter 2022! This story is a nod (well, maybe more than a nod...) toward the Biblical story where Abraham sacrifices Isaac. That story has haunted me forever, and I wanted to explore it, but I just couldn't figure out how until I was watching the old King Kong vs Godzilla with my dad back during COVID lockdown. In that movie, a tribe had devoted their entire existence to worshipping a god (Kong), and that god was stolen from them. How traumatizing would that be?! Like atoms in a supercollider, this idea hit my worries about Isaac, and thus this story was born. I hope you enjoy it! It can bet found HERE.
--My story "The Faceless Enemy" is now out in The Future's So Bright Anthology! This story explores a world where humanity got it's act together, solved the climate crisis, and reached out into space. But even in this idyllic future, people occasionally hit your starship with ransomware! Read all about it in PRINT or DIGITAL.
--My story "The Breaker of Tropes" is finally out! Actually...it's been out for a while, just getting around to posting the link here. Oops! Anyhow, it's a flash fiction that shakes up the classic Chosen One trope. We all love seeing the young underdog overthrow the Dark Lord, but what if something happened that threw the entire prophecy off track? Read on to find out HERE.
--And lastly I've got more poetry out and about with Scifaikuest! The latest paperback issue can be found HERE, and the (totally separate!) online issue can be found HERE. You're alive, and that's a gift. Having just finished Christmas and Hanukkah and as the New Year approaches, take a moment to hold your loved ones close, and to reflect on our amazing world that needs your help. Now, let's get busy! Until next time!