society, feeling the pain of nature’s destruction while most carry onas usual. We see this aspect of environmental subjectivity in AldoLeopold’’sfamousquotethatthepriceofanenvironmentaleducationis to ‘‘live alone in a world of wounds.’’ The more we know, the morewe are pulled between worlds—social worlds, biotic worlds, psychicworlds—forced to shuttle, like Jake Sully, to and from a reality we areboundto(theoneofcars,toxicwaste,carbonemissions,andsoforth)and one we aspire to help make real (biotically whole, harmonious,and synergistic).ThesplittingweseeinJake’’scharacterashebecomesincreasingly involved with the world of Pandora is one that most environmentaladvocates can relate to: The parallel lives we lead, with our desires toprotect and conserve natural systems, while most of us are forced todrive,fly,andengageinmyriadpractices weknow tobeinsomeway part of the damaging system.Of course, it is not so black and white; those of us who love natureand want to protect it, may also be quite attached to our long-haulflights to New Zealand, our leather hiking boots, and various ‘‘guilty pleasures’’ found at the supermarket. The point is that such attemptsto split the world into black and white are inevitably bound to fail. Where
may reify vividly the sort of splitting that makes sensein our cultural and psychic histories (one need only recall the Gardenand the Fall, and longings to return to Arcadia), it also can be di-sastrous emotionally and politically. With the splitting comes long-ing;andwiththelongingforanunobtainableUtopia(yes,Cameron’’s‘‘UnObtainium’’ on Pandora), comes a form of melancholia that canonly lead to a form of paralysis (or death, as Jake who effectively leaves his imperfect and frail body behind). As with Timothy Treadwell, who left to live in harmony with Grizzly Bears, only tomeet his death with one (‘‘Grizzly Man’’) or Christopher McCandless(‘‘IntotheWild’’)whosought tomergewith wildnatureinAlaskaandmet his own end, the risks of idealizing nature come with great risks. We don’t see these risks in
. Rather, when Jake becomes‘‘native,’’ we can’t help but feel euphoric on his behalf.It is not only the minerals on Pandora that are ‘‘UnObtainium’’ butthe idealized image of nature before the Fall itself: the fantasy of returning to the Garden that continues to plague most of us with any form of environmental consciousness. One need not be an environ-mentalist in any shape or form to have known a deep longing for areturn to something simpler, more pure, and innocent. Yes, soundsa lot like childhood. But where psychic maturity happens is precisely in our ability to mourn the losses of our childhood fantasies, andidealisms but to not fall into a stasis of melancholia, either. As Du Toit (2010) has astutely noted in his essay, ‘‘Leaving the World: Avatar,’’ the film visually splits the world into two realms:The technological world of the Corporation, all steel andbulkheads, shot in grim, greyed-out colours, and the magicalworld of the jungle, which is presented as a fairyland. . . Inentering the world of the jungle, Jake Sully enters the realm of Faerie–not another physical realm but another world entirely.This is particularly obvious in the sequences where Jake firstarrives at Home Tree, the natives’’ city-in-the-branches. But-terflies all round, glowing mushrooms, silver leaves, gargan-tuan trees with buttresses spiralling into the light: this is notPandora, this is Lothlo´rien; and the aliens are not humanoidsfrom another planet, they are Tolkien’’s Elves, imbued with allthe powers and qualities proper to them.On one level, the mass success of
is a remarkable event indisseminating environmental imagery and values to a mass audienceof eager moviegoers. On the screen at the multiplex are representa-tions of the very ethos that has mobilized environmental work for decades. As we witness Jake going through the agony of being splitbetween two worlds, we can notice a reflection of our own strugglesover the years; what it is like to have an ecological consciousnessamong the machines.
So, what is the message in the parable of
While the filmpurports to be pro-environmental—‘‘Enter the World,’’ the taglinesays—the psychic message delivered by the story is about leaving theworld. Our bodies and our planet are too broken. It is now aboutconstructing virtual worlds through which to extend our fantasies of a place prior to the rift. Don the glasses and leave our world of plasticcups and sticky soda, and drift among the trees and exotic specieslikely to be endangered on our own planet. Rather than an Avatar body you only need 3D glasses. However, unlike Jake, we can makethe choice to stay put, to dig in, and to find expressions of Pandoraright here growing up in the cracks in the sidewalk.
InthinkingaboutJake’sdilemmaandourown,wearewellservedin remembering Melanie Klein’s groundbreaking work concerningthe paranoid-schizoid and the depressive positions (c.f. Klein, 1937).For Klein, the real task of adulthood is the capacity to mourn thelosses of childhood innocence, and to move forward into a moreintegrative psychic capacity to both hold and contain complexity andmultiplicity: thedepressive position. Incontrast, the paranoid-schizoidposition is marked by manic defenses to ward off overwhelming anx-ieties, and leads to the splitting up of ourselves, others, and the worldinto fragments. In other words, the task of becoming a mature adult isto tolerate knowledge of the caregiver’s own human frailty and our