After creating a hugely successful science-fiction film about a mega-corporation destroying the indigenous culture of another planet, James Cameron has become a surprisingly noteworthy voice on environmental issues, especially those dealing with the very non-fantastical situation of indigenous cultures fighting exploitation.
This week Cameron traveled to Brazil for a three-day visit to the Big Bend (Volta Grande) region of the Xingu River to see the people and rainforests that would be affected by the construction of the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Dam. Long-condemned by environmentalists and indigenous-rights groups, the dam would destroy 500 square kilometers of pristine rainforest and force the relocation of some 12,000 people.
“For people living on the banks of the river, as they have for thousands of years, the damage done (by the dam) would destroy their way of life,” Cameron said in a press conference following his trip, according to Agencia EFE. He asked the Lula Administration of Brazil to reconsider their decision to build the dam.
“There are always other solutions when good leaders play their part to solve a problem,” added Cameron.
Earlier at a Forum in Manuas, Cameron pointed to a WWF Brazil study: “If Brazil were to invest a fraction of the cost of the dam in energy efficiency it could generate 14 times the energy of the Belo Monte Dam and have electricity savings of up to US$19 billion.”
During his trip, Cameron met with several representatives of indigenous groups including the Juruna, Xipaia, Xikrin Kayapó.
“We want to make sure that Belo Monte does not destroy the ecosystems and the biodiversity that we have taken care of for millennia. We are opposed to dams on the Xingu, and will fight to protect our river,” Megaron Tuxucumarrãe, a Kayapó chief, said when the Brazilian government approved the dam in February.
The 11,000 megawatt dam is estimated to provide electricity to 23 million homes in Brazil. However, during three to four months of the year the dam will only run at10-30 percent of capacity due to low waters. Costing an estimated US 12 to 17 billion dollars, the dam would be the third-largest in the world if completed. The bidding auction to build the dam will be conducted on April 20th.
Mongabay.com’s look at Avatar in relation to indigenous rights: The real Avatar story: indigenous people fight to save their forest homes from corporate exploitation
Mongabay.com’s look at how Avatar was inspired by Earth’s biodiversity: World of Avatar: in real life
Environmentalists and indigenous groups decry approval of massive dam in Amazon
(02/02/2010) The approval of the hydro-electric Belo Monte Dam from the Brazilian environmental agency, IBAMA, has raised condemnations from environmentalists and indigenous groups. The dam will divert the flow of the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon River, which runs through the Amazon in northeast Brazil. According to critics the dam will destroy vast areas of pristine rainforest, disrupt sensitive ecosystems, and relocate 12,000 people.
Blackout in Brazil: Hydropower and Our Climate Conundrum
(11/19/2009) It’s everyone’s worst nightmare: being caught in an underground subway in the midst of a power outage. Yet, that is exactly what happened recently when Brazilian commuters in the city of São Paulo were trapped inside trains and literally had to be pulled out of subway cars. In addition to sparking problems in public transport, the blackout or apagão led to hospital emergencies and the shutting down of several airports. In all the power outage darkened approximately half of the South American nation, affecting sixty million people.
Will Brazil’s blackout drive a new push for more rainforest dams?
(11/12/2009) The power outage that affected nearly a third of Brazil’s population Tuesday could be used by development interests to justify a renewed push for hydroelectric dams in the Amazon rainforest.