AVATAR Director James Cameron, Producer Jon Landau and Actress Sigourney Weaver have teamed with Amazon Watch to assist the Brazilian based environmental watch dog agency in its fight to stop the construction on sixty dams that will divert the XINGU River.
The Belo Monte Dam Project spanning the XINGU River (pronounced jing-u) would create the third largest hydro-electric dam in the world and is moving forward despite worldwide outcry. The project will uproot the indigenous people and force them into territories that will greatly stunt their existence. The Brazilin government, as with all world governments, views the ecological concerns second to the needs of their fledging economy.
Against the dollar the people gravely effected are consider expendable under a global system of value; indigenous people have little financial means and under current governmental leadership should receive little concern as they contribute nothing other than a cultural or historic value to our global society.
At the recent AVATAR DAY a representative from AMAZON WATCH explained the current ecological battle and the accomplishments of their organization in fighting the encroaching tide of commercialization.
The Executive Director of AMAZON WATCH, Atossi Soltani and Christian Poiterri were on hand throughout the event to explain the future effects of the continued destruction of the ecosystem in the Volta Grande Do Xingu region. The Belo Monte Dam construction projects are moving forward despite worldwide focus, a global stop campaign, alternative energy suggestions and protests.
Having the opportunity to interview the representatives of AMAZON WATCH our exchange went as follows:
Janet Walker: It’s been six months, how has your message resonated with the local government and has your message been implemented? What’s the ground floor response?
Christian Poiterri: Well, unfortunately the Brazilian government is pushing forward with this project, really, at all costs. In spite of the overwhelming evidence that this project is not economically, socially and environmentally viable. So we believe that there are a number of issues behind this the Brazilian government must discuss. Their talking about trying to meet their future energy needs when in fact it is more about serving the needs of the political cronies and economic quotas as opposed to really looking for solutions to the potential energy problems. And so we continually see them framing the project in these terms and moving forward with this in spite of this overwhelming response of the Brazilian society and internationally.
Atossi Soltani: When we arrived in Brazil there was no coverage of this issue and over the last six months there have been tremendous coverage in Brazil in fact all, most, every major newspaper in Brazil has come out with editorials against the dam. And that happened literally overnight after we were there and the New York Times covered it and we were able to meet with Presidential Candidate Marina Silva, from the Green Party. Her message is quite amazing too about renewable [energy] and Green jobs and growth through Green jobs and Green Economy and we appealed to her to make Belo Monte a bigger part of the presidential debate. She’s no longer in the run-off the elections happened a few weeks ago there is no a runoff election next week and she challenged those two candidates to talk about Belo Monte.
Meanwhile, there are eight lawsuits pending against the dam but you know the court sector is very traditional branch of the government is not independent as it is in this country. The jurisdictional issue is different. We’ve had a real uphill battle because it is a political project that the government supports and is behind and it does serve the big mining operation in the Amazon. It’s really, as Jim as said, very eloquently it is a clash of world view. One hand you have the Brazilian government and National Bank saying it is there vision of the future for the Amazon. Then you have people who basically recognize the Amazon as the global rain machine. We all depend on the Amazon.
We are reaching a tipping point. The Amazon is reaching a tipping point in the next ten years at most to having more than 40 to 50 percent deforested or degraded. When it reaches that tipping point we will see a desertification and loss of the hydrological cycle and what we call an ecological collapse of what we call the hydrological cycle of the Amazon. That will have global repercussions so we’re out of time with the old model and we have to invent new models.
The other thing that happened as a result was James Cameron picked up the phone and called the CEO of Google and said, ‘you guys have to get involved.’ So Google Earth outreach helped us design a ten minute Google Animation that actually is on the disk that you can take with you. It’s a ten minute tour of theproposed BeloMonteDam, the impact and the alternatives and was narrated by Sigourney Weaver. The documentarywas really moving and she was incredibly moved and its had millions of hits and we’re hoping it goes viral and we’re working on a global petition campaign and there has been an energy efficiency study so there is a lot going on still. The battle is far from over and as Christian said this is symbolic even if we lose this Dam there are more than sixty Dams projected for the Amazon and we feel this is a battle that needs to grow and really shift the energy framework for Brazil and for us here too. We need to look at energy as a key issue. So, we haven’t won and we’ve had tremendous success in raising awareness and with the DVD we’re hoping people will see the story.
After viewing Defending The Rivers Of The Amazon, a Google Earth/James Cameron mini-documentary narrated by Sigourney Weaver, the following represents the alternative energy possibilities that can be implemented with cost that clearly dwarf in comparison to the financial cost of the dam projects and the far reaching ecological damage associated with the Belo Monte Dam project.
The construction of the Belo Monte Dam would gravely injure XINGU River aquatic habitat and result in the extinction of, at least, ten species of fish. The stagnate pools of water would cause the breeding of parasite spreading mosquitoes resulting in continual outbreaks of Malaria and other diseases. The energy from the Belo Monte Dam project is not clean energy. The decomposing vegetation, resulting from the forced flooding as the rivers are diverted, would cause the escape of methane gases which are 25 percent more potent than carbon dioxide.
By implementing energy efficient guidelines the Brazilian government could cut the demand for energy 40 percent by 2020 and save approximately fourteen billion dollars. Construction associated with Solar and Wind energy projects could result in eight million new jobs far more than the Belo Monte Dam Project. If the alternative energy measures were implemented the energy resulting from the efforts would reduce the need for the Belo Monte Dam project to zero. There would be no need to continue these Dam projects!
As the global focus shifts toward finding alternative sources for energy these efforts would propel Brazil to a global leader in implementing alternative energy resources. The phenomenon surrounding AVATAR and the destruction of Pandora will remain in the public eye and projects like these that destroy our natural resources will continue to gain greater public awareness and bring a continued spotlight on governements that refuse to consider alternative solutions.
For more information: www.amazonwatch.org
To view Defending The Rivers of the Amazon: www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-seAAIsJLQ.
Special Thanks to Warren Betts Communications/Zoomwerks.
Janet Walker, “AVATAR Director James Cameron, Producer Jon Landau, Sigourney Weaver Partner With Amazon Watch,” Yahoo! Contributor Network.