James Cameron’s new hit Avatar is inspiring a new environmental interest group known as “The Avatarian Society” to seek out their own private Pandora. The group hopes to find a secret, unspoiled area so that they might live in the way of the Na’vi– the indigenous people who live harmoniously with nature in Cameron’s film.
Not since John Steinbeck wrote his famous work Of Mice and Men has there been so much enthusiasm among certain members of society “to live off the fat of the land.” But now a new elite group of environmentalists are pushing the stakes even higher.
“I guess I could say the movie made a big impression on me. Maybe the biggest impression of my life in fact,” said Brandon Murphy, a founding member of the Avatarian Society.
“It allowed me to wake up and see that we’re all just Avatars. This just isn’t real. America isn’t real– it’s all just an illusion. Some people say they like to go camping and hiking to escape reality. I say they’re escaping to reality. The Na’vi had it all right. They knew what was real and what wasn’t.”
Murphy, who lives in St. Louis, Missouri started the group along with several of his friends last month after seeing Avatar for his third time. He explained that the first two times he saw the movie it was in the standard two dimensional movie format. When he finally saw the movie as Cameron intended it to be seen in 3D, Murphy was transformed.
And he’s not alone. After several days of bombarding online social networking sites like Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook with their idea to start a new “hard-core environmental movement,” Murphy and his friends claim that interest skyrocketed.
“People want to go to Pandora. People need to go to Pandora. It’s who we are,” said Mr. Murphy’s girlfriend, Brenda Smith. Not everyone is so excited about the Avatarian Society though and some people say their goal of finding a secret spot on Earth and succeeding as a society is unrealistic.
“Every few decades or so these radical groups turn up and try some new kind of social experiment that is designed so that they will live with almost no environmental impact. Expectations are always high, and people tend to end up disappointed and quit when things don’t work out,” says Dr. Brian Barrow, a professor of sociology at Yale University who also teaches some conservation-themed courses in the university’s School of Forestry. Barrow recommends all young environmentalists read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance in addition to more popular works like Thoreau’s legendary Walden. Barrow explains that in Blithdale readers can learn from the mistakes made by the story’s characters who try to live unsuccessfully at a utopian commune-like farm.
Despite their critics, the members of the Avatarian Society aren’t alone in their love of Avatar’s themes. Pulitzer prize winning journalist John McQuaid wrote that Avatar’s story closely parallels what is happening with mountaintop removal. He said that Avatar is “no fantasy.”
When asked about his critics’ concerns, Mr. Murphy shrugged and said, “There will always be people trying to shoot down good ideas. They’re scared. Scared of change. We will find our new home and we will be happy. I’m sorry it took us so long to need James Cameron to wake us up.”
Mr. Cameron was contacted for comment on this story, but did not respond.
Additional Reporting by Jack Metcalf