Avatar: What do you see?

Neytiri, a Na'vi from Pandora

Neytiri, a Na’vi from Pandora

baby pigeons in flower pot

baby pigeons in flower pot

grebes on lac leman

grebes on lac leman

fungus on tree

fungus on tree

hummingbird hawk moth

hummingbird hawk moth

seagulls on lac leman

seagulls on lac leman

blue flowers

blue flowers

sparrows drinking

sparrows drinking

view over coral reef

view over coral reef

sunflower in full bloom

sunflower in full bloom

frog

frog

Roesel's bush cricket (Metrioptera roeselii)

Roesel’s bush cricket (Metrioptera roeselii)

trichodes nuttalli on thistle

trichodes nuttalli on thistle

orange butterfly

orange butterfly

hawk circling

hawk circling

James Camerons’ new science-fantasy film, ‘Avatar’, starring Sigourney Weaver, is doing the rounds at the box office in Geneva. I saw it recently, and I have to say, it’s an amazing film. See it in 3D if you can, it’s worth it.

Without giving away too much of the story, I can tell you that it’s set in the future where humans travel to a planet called ‘Pandora’ to mine a valuable mineral from under the feet of the indigenous natives. The natives don’t want to give up their lands, of course. The humans attack them with the usual military hardware, and the natives fight back with bows and arrows. Nothing particularly new there, the plot has a familiar ring to it.

Nonetheless, Avatar stands out from the crowd. James Cameron is not known for thinking small, and the visual effects are quite stunning. The landscapes are exquisite, and the plants and animals are beautiful. Bio-luminescent plants glow underfoot where people walk at night. The whole thing is put together superbly, with a great deal of attention to detail.

The natives (“Na’vi”) are tall and elegant, and more than a little elfin in appearance. They live in harmony with their world, respectful of the living things they share it with. Taking no more than they need to survive, they deplore the humans’ lack of balance with nature. When the tribal-chief’s daughter rescues one of the humans from a sticky situation (I told you the plot was familiar), she chastises him, telling him “you do not see”. Like so many of us, he considers himself to be separate from the web of life around him, not a part of it, so he is blind to the real beauty of it all.

It seems that message has struck a chord with many of us, and some people get depressed after seeing Avatar. They envy the Na’vi their lifestyle, and are not happy to think that they can never live that way, nor live in such a beautiful place as Pandora.

I guess I can understand that, but I don’t agree with it. The Pandora that James Cameron has created is indeed very beautiful, and the Na’vi have a great way of life. Sure, they occasionally have to dodge things with teeth the size of their heads, but apart from that, they seem to have it made. But while Pandora might be a nice place to visit, I don’t think I would want to live there. Planet Earth is my home, and I’m happy here.

It’s true that most of us cannot claim to live in harmony with nature. Probably only a few of us would want to go as far as the Na’vi, but we can probably do better than we do today. All we need to do is to go out there and start looking around, the natural world is just waiting to be found.

You don’t have to go on safari either, nor to a tropical island. You can go to your nearest beach, lake, river or woodland, and take a good look around you. You can go down to the bottom of your garden, or to the nearest park. Nature is at home in all sorts of places.

I’ve seen blue-tits working hard to bring food to their young in the nest they built in the shutters of my apartment window. I’ve even been lucky enough to see one of those chicks make its’ first flight, leaving the nest. I’ve seen baby birds clambering to hitch a ride on their mothers’ back, rather than expend the effort to swim alongside her. I’ve seen a pigeon raise a family in an empty flower-pot on my balcony. I’ve seen all sorts of pretty insects – caterpillars, butterflies, crickets, bees and beetles – in the plants I’ve grown on my terrace. Nothing unique or exotic, but all beautiful just the same.

It’s not just birds or insects either. I’ve had squirrels come up to me in Hyde Park, looking to see what I had in my hand. I’ve seen a hedgehog on my terrace, and frogs in my Mums’ garden. There are deer and foxes in the Jura that we sometimes see on our walks, or even from the comfort of our home. After a fresh fall of snow the sheer number of animal tracks has to be seen to be believed, there’s so many of them. We saw a weasel not long ago, and I’ve seen chamois and marmots in the Alps.

I’m no expert at finding these animals, I just go out and look. I don’t see them every day, but that makes it all the more precious when I do.

If you live in the concrete jungle and don’t have any countryside within reach, try visiting your nearest park. If there’s grass, trees, and flowers then there will be birds, bees, and other insects. Take some bird-seed and you might be able to tempt the birds to come close to you. Give them time to get used to you and they may even perch on your hand. Come evening, you may be lucky enough to see bats flying around too. If there’s a pond then there may be frogs or dragonflies hidden among the reeds.

If you don’t have time to go somewhere, you can put a birdfeeder in your garden, on your balcony, or just mounted on the wall outside your window. Birds will find it, and you can enjoy them from the comfort of your own home. You can really see their characters emerging when you see how they behave around a feeder, it’s fun to watch.

If you’re not sure where to start looking, there are plenty of good sources of information. Your local library or tourist office can tell you about nature-groups, natural attractions, or forthcoming nature-related events in your area. If you know someone more experienced, ask them to show you where to look. There are several good TV programmes too, such as Springwatch in the UK. Or you could search the web for nature-bloggers in your neck of the woods, and ask them a few questions. They’ll be sure to help you if they can.

I’ve not seen anything as big or colourful as the creatures that the Na’vi encounter on Pandora, but fair’s fair, I’ve not met anything that tried to eat me, either. If you take the time to go looking for it, nature is never far away. Go take a look, you’ll see.

Bookmark and Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Responses [lang_en]to[/lang_en][lang_fr]pour[/lang_fr] “Avatar: What do you see?”

  1. AnneTanne Says:

    I haven’t seen Avatar (yet), but I do like this thoughts…
    Thank you for sharing them, and after the movie, I will discuss them with my 13 years old son (who is on the brink of leaving childhood, but still in harmony with his surroundings….)

  2. Tony Says:

    Hi Anne,

    I’m sure you will enjoy the film. It’s sad that people feel the loss of contact with nature, but don’t realise just how easy it is to do something about it. While i was writing this post, I was rather amazed to think of some of the things I have been lucky enough to see over the years, yet I know that most people could see them too if they would only take the time to look.

  3. sarmila Says:

    there is a note of peace in your ideas…i love that. i too, here in kerala,a state of India wait to see Avtar. here people talk much abt the film. ok thank you for such a nice post mr. tony,,,,lov,sarmila