One of the reasons why Avatar has been such a success (besides the mind-numbingly beautiful scenery) is that it has a simple story. The David versus Goliath plot can–and has already been–applied to situations around the world by activist groups eager to hitch their wagon to the blockbuster film. But the latest campaign by environmental groups including the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and Earthworks might be the most effective. The organizations have teamed up to purchase a full-page ad in the Oscar edition of Variety comparing the battle between Pandorans and the Sky People to the destruction of the Boreal forest to make way for oil extraction in the Canadian Tar Sands.
Sierra Club Canada elaborated on the ad in a press release:
The ad shows a 797B Heavy Hauler, one of the first trucks used to mine the Tar Sands, which is identical to some of the trucks used in Avatar . It also shows the vast open pit mines and tailings ponds that cut across what was once pristine Boreal forest–the same forest that stretched across Cameron’s hometown in Ontario. “We want Hollywood, and the powerful thought leaders there, to know Avatar does a great job of exposing the Tar Sands,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence Canada, one of 55 groups that signed the ad. “It’s the world’s most destructive project — Pandora’s unobtanium is Canada’s Tar Sands.”
Cameron probably didn’t have the Boreal forest in mind when he thought up the plot to Avatar. But it’s still a smart move on the part of anti-Tar Sand activists to make such a splashy statement in Variety. One sign that it’s working: The ad has already managed to upset oil producers. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has quickly lashed back with a press release of its own.