Thursday, 14 January 2010

Avatar and Virtual Solastalgia

As the real world is being desolated (climate change, ecosystem distress etc etc), real people experience solastalgia. When, in Avatar, they can 'see' an alternative world, which is beautiful, diverse and complex, one that meets their aesthetic, spiritual and ethical needs, they want to live within it. During the movie, they experience a virtual solastalgia as they become virtual participants in the attempted destruction and desolation of the Na'vi and other life forms in this pristine environment ... all for the sake of a meaningless materialism. The movie becomes, for such people, an existential experience of negative environmental change (defined as solastalgia). At the conclusion of the movie when they must accept that such a world is virtual only, they experience a virtual nostalgia for it and become depressed.

The irony of humans finally seeing the value of life, different ways of being 'human', non-human beings and living systems via a movie about a virtual world and its destruction is not lost on me. That a brilliant movie with all of its digital special effects can be more powerful as a change agent than the environmental writers and commentators of the world says something important about environmental education in critically important domains such as global warming, environmental and animal ethics, and habitat destruction.