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Accidentally Eco: The Sustainability of 'Avatar' and Pandora

In the world of 'Avatar,' Pandora's Na'vi live in accordance with nature, leading to a wealth of accidentally eco moments that feel poignant and personal.

avatar way of water sustainability
Written by
Brightly Staff
Welcome to Pandora. The flora and fauna come in technicolor, the Na'vi live in deep accordance to and connection with
, and not-so-accidentally eco moments comprise the majority of the messaging.
Whether you're new to the planet of Pandora or have been patiently awaiting James Cameron's follow-up, Avatar: The Way of Water is dominating mainstream media—for better or for worse. With a runtime of 3.5 hours and a
reported cost of $350 million
, Cameron's environmental commentary comes with some major costs, as well as several noteworthy benefits.

'Avatar,' James Cameron, and Environmentalism

Photo: Twentieth Century Fox
For Cameron, the purpose of 2009's Avatar—and the
four follow-ups
—was to
spark conversation
and action in regard to human environmental impact. And while Cameron undoubtedly succeeded in spreading his message, Avatar comes with some cultural baggage that inherently impacts its reception.
The first film finds humans mining Pandora for want of the valuable compound unobtanium, and with its move toward the coast, Avatar: The Way of Water centers sea life endangered by continued human greed. In contrast to the human-run RDA, the Na'vi champion the sort of humble planetary stewardship that Indigenous tribes on our own planet have long practiced. Unfortunately, the film also furthers a tired narrative, one in which a white savior (Jake Sully, now chief of the Omaticaya clan) steps in to save the Indigenous Na'vi from his fellow colonizers.
A plant-based proponent himself, Cameron insisted on
vegan catering on set
. The film is garnering environmental accolades, too, including the
Advanced Imaging Society
’s "Voices For The Earth" Award and the
Environmental Media Association
's Green Seal for sustainable production. That said, the
dolphin show
that accompanied the Japanese premiere has many fans reeling, as the spectacle is pretty much the antithesis of The Way of Water's takeaway.
But let's get back to Pandora. With its awe-inspiring landscapes and creatures, as well as the lifestyles enjoyed by its native inhabitants, the planet's accidentally eco moments become purposeful—and poignant.

5 Accidentally Eco Aspects of 'Avatar'

1. Minimalist Lifestyle

avatar sustainability
Photo: Twentieth Century Fox
The Na'vi live simply, using only what is necessary to thrive on Pandora. Dwellings are built into the existing environment with minimal disruption, and clothing (which is minimal in its own right) and accessories are crafted from natural materials.

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2. Conscious Consumption

Photo: Twentieth Century Fox
While Cameron may be vegan, the Na'vi are not—but that doesn't mean they aren't characteristically thoughtful about their consumption. The clans' children are taught to hunt early, an art that includes respecting nature by taking only what is needed.
The Na'vi also use every part of an animal, letting nothing go to waste. In one scene, Spider was appalled that the humans—aka the "Sky People"—took only a portion of an animal, leaving the rest to rot.

3. Appreciation of Nature

Photo: Twentieth Century Fox
Unlike the Sky People, the Na'vi live in harmony with nature, which means honoring its slowness and cycles.
Time is spent with family and loved ones, and the children are often in awe of what they discover during their daily adventures, be it flying reptiles or seeds that float through the sky like ethereal jellyfish.

4. Zero-Emission Transport

Photo: Twentieth Century Fox
Instead of relying on carbon-emitting vehicles like the Sky People, the Na'vi form bonds with animals native to Pandora—like the airbound banshees and aquatic ilus—to get around.

5. Natural Burials

avatar sustainability
Photo: Twentieth Century Fox
The Na’vi believe that energy is borrowed and meant to be given back with our passing. When a member of their family dies, that lifeforce is returned to the planet through a
natural burial in nature
—a far cry from the traditional unsustainable deathcare industry.