avatar_movie_promo_screenshotI have watched Avatar twice now, and both times I have felt deeply sad at the callous destruction of the forest peoples home. Sure, the plot is a bit weak at times, but as this article points out, it is closer to current reality than most people think. The history of colonialism and destruction of indigenous peoples is far more violent, far more aggressive, than we see in this movie. Survival international, a group working to protect tribal peoples and their lands, has also written about how this destruction of nature-based peoples continues unabated today. In our region, the Penan of Sarawak are losing their home to palm oil plantations and logging.

At the heart of the movie is the way in which the dominant culture treats indigenous and nature-based peoples. Why is it that our western culture (now dominating the world) continues to act in this way? Perhaps the foundational beliefs of western society need to be more carefully and critically examined.

Val Plumwood has written that we have constructed a western human ideal that maximises difference and distance from the animal, the primitive and the natural. She says that the traits thought distinctively human and valued as a result, are not only those associated with certain kinds of masculinity but also unshared with animals. These traits are usually taken to be mental characteristics. We deny the naturalness in others, and even in ourselves. In our busyness, in our frantic search for something else, in our tight and stressed lives, we have forgotten what it means to be natural.

Our culture backgrounds those who provide for the necessities of life, and constructs virtue and privilege in terms of distance from them. We deny our dependency on nature, on women, on those who provide us with food. We create virtue out of abstractions, business, concepts, science and rational thought. We deny other ways of knowing, we trivialise knowing through our senses, our bodies, our own inner wisdom.

The modern global economy is devouring the world that supports us, a world that nurtures our existence. The rational economy denies space and place to living things, beings who move to their own rhythms, to people who live close to the earth. This is not rational!

We need to understand nature as the irreplaceable other on which all life depends.