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penanlogging.jpgDespite the heroic-white-man myth, I loved Avatar: after all, how did our unobtanium get under their tree? It's the classic tale of colonialism, just with better effects. Be blue, go Green.

In South Lanarkshire today, it's the threat of opencast coal, and the locals are indeed getting help from outside - sadly, today the bad guys also arrived in force

I've never before put a press release up here, but by coincidence today the wonderful Survival International (give generously) put one out with the following comments.

A Penan man from Sarawak (above), in the Malaysian part of Borneo, told Survival International:

"The Penan people cannot live without the rainforest. The forest looks after us, and we look after it. We understand the plants and the animals because we have lived here for many, many years, since the time of our ancestors.

"The Na'vi people in 'Avatar' cry because their forest is destroyed. It's the same with the Penan. Logging companies are chopping down our big trees and polluting our rivers, and the animals we hunt are dying."

Kalahari Bushman Jumanda Gakelebone said:

"We the Bushmen are the first inhabitants in southern Africa. We are being denied rights to our land and appeal to the world to help us. 'Avatar' makes me happy as it shows the world about what it is to be a Bushman, and what our land is to us. Land and Bushmen are the same."

Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, known as the Dalai Lama of the Rainforest, said: 

"My Yanomami people have always lived in peace with the forest. Our ancestors taught us to understand our land and animals. We have used this knowledge carefully, for our existence depends on it. My Yanomami land was invaded by miners. A fifth of our people died from diseases we had never known."

Survival's director, Stephen Corry, said:

"The fundamental story of Avatar - if you take away the multi-coloured lemurs, the long-trunked horses and warring androids - is being played out time and time again, on our planet.

"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."

Back to South Lanarkshire, Harry Thompson, former chair of the local community council, said:

"Despite massive community opposition to the mine at Mainshill, Scottish Coal and South Lanarkshire Council continue to disregard the interests of those living in proximity to the mines. The particulate matter released in the open cast mining process in this area has caused unusually high rates of cancer and lung disease. Granting permission to a new mine 1000 metres from the local hospital is the final straw."

Update: if you have seen Avatar, or are sure you won't ever do so, and fancy its politics analysed in more detail, the Socialist Unity view is fascinating.

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This page was published on January 25, 2010 11:53 AM.

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