Today my mind was blown by James Cameron’s sf film Avatar in full-colour 3D. Some spoilers follow.
Tolkien created the ents, the tree-shepherds, out of his sense that trees are so large yet so defenseless against the man — or the orc — with an axe and a torch. The moon Pandora, Avatar’s world, is Tolkien’s ents on a global scale. It’s Lovelock’s natty old Gaia “hypothesis” turned concrete reality. Lem’s world Solaris is covered by a sentient global ocean. Pandora has a sentient global jungle that fights back against the despoiler.
It is of course wish fulfillment for the guilt-ridden modern urbanite — that Mother Nature is a real thinking being and able to protect herself. Alas, she is not. Or should I say — lucky for us brainy chimps, she is not, because then she would have snuffed us way back in the pre-pottery Neolithic.
We’re not up against a formidable opponent. We can’t even console ourselves with the feeling of being up against a half-competent adversary. We’re alone with our guilt at fucking over ecosystems that are completely incapable of opposing us or adapting to us. We’re holding the axe and all the tree can do is rustle its leaves. Wouldn’t it be great if we weren’t responsible for the environment?
It might be seen as a concession to realism that the film’s lo-tech indigenes — unlike the Ewoks of Endor — prove no match to hi-tech military forces. That’s also where Avatar parts company with LeGuin’s The Word for World is Forest. But instead of getting herded off to a barren reservation or ending up as ghetto proles like the indigenous peoples of historical Earth, Pandora’s people are saved by Mother Nature.
Don’t miss the movie!