People want to kill tree sitters, but no one wants to kill James Cameron.
As Cameron’s film Avatar became the highest grossing film of all time this weekend, former Berkeley tree sitters gathered in theaters in the East Bay to see what they have come to consider the Hollywood version of their own quest to save the planet, one tree at a time. Since the last tree was felled at the now famous (some say infamous) oak-grove-turned-sports-complex in Berkeley after a nearly two-year struggle with officials in 2007 and 2008, the pie-in-the-sky activists have searched for a way to ground their worldview after coming down from the trees.
"Avatar is a classic tree sit, but on the silver screen," said one young former tree sitter who called herself Leaf. "It made a billion dollars off of the message we were trying to send out about anti-capitalism. It’s so ironic. And they wanted to kill us. But then Cameron gets accolades."
Although the real life tree sitters had no flying dragons, lethal arrows, or floating mountains, they faced adversaries as blatantly hostile as the film’s military contractors searching for "unobtainium," and even received death threats from bystanders angered at their blithe ability to stop what some viewed as progress; all for the sake of their "silly" environmentalist ideals. Through all of this hostile opposition, the tree sit was deliberately nonviolent—save for a few unsavory and regrettable moments. The film was decidedly not—in fact, it seemed to promote the idea of violent activism. Perhaps even the right of the Na’vi to kill for a cause.
As a student journalist at the University of California Berkeley who was arrested for a nonviolent action during the stand-off between University officials and activists who were fighting to save a 100-year-old oak grove condemned for a new sports complex, I feel that Avatar has tapped into a the consciousness already present in American society; one that falls shy of supporting tree sitters but unabashedly applauds a film about environmental activism—even if it is violent activism.
If you've watched it, what did you think of Avatar? Great film, greatest film, overrated tripe, and/or treesitter propaganda?