"Avatar" star Sigourney Weaver traveled to Brazil this month with the film's director, James Cameron, co-star Joel David Moore and an environmental group that's working to halt the construction of a hydroelectric dam in the Amazon. That group and others say the dam will destroy parts of the rain forest and displace its indigenous communities. The Brazilian government says the dam will provide necessary clean energy for the country.
"Avatar," now the highest-grossing film of all time, is rich in environmental themes that dovetail with the visit to South America, and with the 40th anniversary of Earth Day – today, April 22.
After the trip, Weaver stopped in Washington, where she participated in a panel discussion on global environmental issues, and spoke with Politics Daily about her experiences in Brazil.
PD: You just got back from Brazil – how was that?
It was amazing. I'd never been to Latin America. I'd never been to the Amazon. Everyone all over the world has been fascinated by the Amazon and its diversity of species.
So to actually go down there and then to spend so much time with some of the tribes along the Xingu River and hear their very passionate concerns about their way of life disappearing because of this dam; to have that judge postpone the [construction bids] and say there have been irregularities and this needs to be looked at again – I was very impressed that Brazil was taking this into its own hands and moving forward.
And I hope we can continue to encourage them to have a dialogue with these [indigenous] people because I think they're one of the great treasures of Brazil. But I think a lot of people haven't visited the Amazon and they don't realize what an extraordinary way of life exists there.
PD: For Earth Day, "Avatar" is being released on DVD. What's the message there?
I think everyone involved with the film, but particularly Jim Cameron, feels that one of the reasons the film has been so loved around the world [is] it's really touched a chord.
Maybe people are sort of dragging their feet, wanting to make a lot of these changes. I think we don't have all the information we need. We need more leadership. And every country is at a crossroads now.
I just think there's so much talent in the world and certainly in our country, and so much resourcefulness. After that terrible tragedy in the coal mine last week – let's move on into the future.
There are so many jobs that can be created with finding new forms of sustainable energy, which will be good for our air, good for our water and good for our planet. We don't want it to end up this unlivable place like Pandora.
PD: Movies have a huge carbon footprint. Is that something that you thought about – talked about during filming?
Starting last summer, I've started working on films where there's a big, big push – we had generators powered by mobile solar panels, we didn't use water bottles. So, we're trying.
Also I'm part of the Flea Theater in New York. Theater is a big energy gobbler. We're building a new theater in downtown New York and we're going to try and make it as green as possible.
PD: "Avatar" DVDs will come with codes; fans can go online and adopt a tree. Is it important to spread public awareness that way?
I think so. This is not a political discussion. This is a discussion about health and prospering physically. It's about our grandchildren. To me it's not a Republican or Democrat issue. It's so apolitical.
I hope that Congress comes together and sets aside their differences to try to create a real dialogue. Saying climate change doesn't exist is not going to help us. I think we have to face a lot of the facts. Ocean acidification
is measurable. Plankton in Antarctica is down 30 percent, which is the bottom of the very necessary food chain. . . .
I think our movie's popularity showed that there is great passion in this, and maybe the adults are dragging their feet. But the kids are really hip to all of this. They're not gonna be very happy if we waste too many years.