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The cinematic environment

It looks like the film Avatar is headed towards a record box office take. At the time of going to press it had taken in well over one billion dollars worldwide. That is a lot of coin for a film that is so blatantly anti-consumerist.

It looks like the film Avatar is headed towards a record box office take.

At the time of going to press it had taken in well over one billion dollars worldwide.

That is a lot of coin for a film that is so blatantly anti-consumerist.

If you are one of the few people left on Earth who has yet to see the film here is a very quick synopsis.

Humans are knocking trees down and destroying ecosystems on a beautiful forest-covered planet to get at underground minerals and the locals are very upset.

The reader can be forgiven if this reminds them of the Yukon.

Because this is a Hollywood movie some of the humans help the locals in battling the miners and then forcing them to leave the forest and go back to Earth.

The message one could take away from the film is that nature is precious and sacred and is worth fighting for.

Others disagree.

The Vatican has already stepped in and condemned the film as simplistic and too oriented to nature worship.

The United States military has condemned the film as implying their soldiers are nasty and brutish.

Right-wing commentators have perceived the film as being anti-capitalist.

There has also been criticism from others who have accused the film of being racist.

The locals, who are tall and blue and have tails, are saved only by the intervention of a human who has switched sides.

It would appear the locals are incapable of saving themselves.

Despite all this controversy any film that can rake in over a billion bucks obviously has something going for it.

But there is a contradiction in all of this.

The idea of seeing a pro-nature and anti-industrialization film is full of ironies.

The film industry depends on a huge industrial complex to ensure its success.

From the land that is used as film sets to the energy power required for all the computers needed to create the special effects a lot of natural eco-systems had to be trashed.

Even in little old Whitehorse almost everyone had to drive to the cinema in gas-guzzling greenhouse-gas spewing vehicles.

There everyone sits in a large metal structure heated by fossil fuels on land that was formally part of a riparian strip alongside an undammed Yukon river.

The viewers have to be part of all this industrialization in order to experience the fantasy environmental world created by the filmmakers.

Meanwhile, the Yukon boreal forest is literally within walking distance of the popcorn counter.

This boreal forest is being ripped apart by mines, bisected by seismic trails, ploughed over for farms and just generally developed.

This is what it means to live in a technologically industrialized society.

The Yukon is fortunate in that its residents can experience, if they so choose, the incredibly active and dynamic natural environment they are part of.

They can do so with all the benefits of the modern consumer society such as high-tech hiking gear and extreme skiing equipment.

They can also use an extensive road network to take personal vehicles to areas where this equipment can be used.

Given where human civilization is headed, with the possibility that everyone will consume at the same level as North Americans do, it is debatable how long the Yukon will still have large-scale intact ecosystems.

Those pieces of hiking gear, those vehicles, even the resources needed to make Avatar have to come from somewhere.

In part those resources will in the future come from the Yukon.

Thus the large intact portions of the Yukon’s boreal forest will be swept away to provide material for things as mundane as hiking gear, vehicles and perhaps even the movie industry.

All that being said this columnist encourages one and all to see the film Avatar.

It might have a simplistic message, but it is a message worth listening to.

Walking out of the cinema most viewers will probably feel an urge to donate money to some environmental cause, if only to assuage their guilt.

Whether they will follow up on that urge is debatable, but one does hope that they do make that donation.

Imagine if the same amount was donated to environmental groups as was spent on the price of admission to Avatar.

One billion dollars might, just might, ensure some portions of the Earth’s existing ecosystems continue to survive.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist. There is a correction to be made in last week’s column. The Mackenzie Gas Project will provide one billion cubic feet, not metres, of natural gas.