I might have been one of the last persons to see the movie Avatar. There were only eight other people in the theater. We didn't even see the 3-D version that had so wowed earlier audiences.
When I discussed the film with some co-workers,they were impressed with the visual effects. But thought that the story line was unoriginal ( eg. Dancing With Wolves), too predictable, with mostly one-dimensional characterizations. While I liked the film, I had to admit that the film had some of these weaknesses.
But perhaps the film's real merit may lie in it's resonance with what might be called the "4-D" of real life. A fortuitous discovery of a web site called "forestpeoples.org", placed the events depicted in the film, in the present-day reality of the contention among indigenous peoples and others over the land and it's resources.
According to the web site, almost all forests on earth are inhabited. Despite this fact the policies of many countries treat these areas as if they were devoid of human inhabitants and freely available for exploitation. Even projects to create wildlife preserves often make such an assumption.
As the world's demand for food, fiber and bio-energy escalates, so does the value of the land to many diverse interests. In Avatar, the forest dwellers need outside allies to effectively assert their own rights in the face of powerful economic and military interests.
The 20 year old, Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) is such a real life organization. It is made up of experts in land rights, environmental development and indigenous affairs. FPP takes a rights-based approach to environmental and development issues. They work with local communities to build up their own organizations to be able to successfully negotiate with governments and companies over how the land is to be used.
FPP has extensive, long-term field programs in Venezuela, the three Guyanas, Central Africa, and South and South-East Asia. They also have an array of publications that deal with broad issues like law and human rights,environmental governance and responsible finance, plus country-specific reports.
While in Avatar, the indigenous people were on their own planet and had recourse to some magical powers to physically defeat the outside colonizers. Today's forest dwellers may need to ally themselves with groups like the Forest Peoples Programme to successfully defend their rights and lives on our planet.