Admittedly, the movie I have in mind (set in a world that Avatar hints at) would lack the blue-skinned Na’vi people, but it would still feature Jake Scully, this time in his real body, on the most intriguing planet of all: Earth. And given a global audience that can’t get enough of Cameron’s work, how many wouldn’t pay big bucks for a chance to take a Pandora-style, sensory-expanding guided tour of our own planet? It would be part of a harrowing tale of environmental degradation, resource scarcity, and perennial conflict in the twilight years of humanity’s decline. Think of it as Avatar: Earth’s Last Stand.
Cameron offers many indications in Avatar that this is the logical direction for him to take. At a poignant moment before the climactic battle between the Na’vi and the remorseless humans begins, for instance, Scully, the renegade Marine turned native rebel, pleads for help from Eywa, the goddess who rules over Pandora: "See, the world we come from–there’s no green there–they killed their mother." At another point, Colonel Quaritch, the homicidal Marine commander played with gusto by Stephen Lang, refers to Scully’s previous service with the First Marine Reconnaissance unit on Earth, highlighting his three combat tours in Venezuela. "That was some mean bush," he says. Then, speaking of his own combat record, Quaritch alludes to fierce fighting in Nigeria. For anyone familiar with the present competition for global energy resources, Venezuela and Nigeria stand out as major oil producers with a history of civil strife.
2144 in 3-D
Imagine them, then, on a future, energy-starved planet. In fact, I can easily picture such a future, so let me take one more step and offer myself to Cameron as a technical consultant on his prequel. Admittedly, I wouldn’t be the person to write the film’s plot or script–I know my limit–but when it comes to charting future resource wars, I think I could be useful. Drawing on Cameron’s clues in Avatar and my own books, including Resource Wars, Blood and Oil and Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet, let me just sketch out the prequel scenario I envision:
It’s the torrid summer of 2144, just a decade before Avatar begins. (That movie takes place in summer 2154, after a flight from Earth that, we’re told, involves six continuous years of sleep, which helps us backdate Jake Scully’s Venezuelan combat tours.) As it has been for decades, the world is at war, with competing power blocs fighting bitterly over a diminishing pool of vital resources.
Three great power centers dominate the global resource struggle, all located in the northern latitudes where the climate still remains tolerable and the land still receives sufficient rainfall to support agriculture. The first of these, in whose legions both Scully and Quaritch fight, is the North American Federation, founded after the United States, facing desertification in its southern half, invaded and absorbed Canada. The second, Greater China, incorporating northern China, the Korean peninsula and eastern Siberia (seized from Russia in a series of wars), dominates what’s left of Asia; the third, the North European Alliance, encompassing Germany, Russia (west of the Urals) and Scandinavia, relies heavily on Arctic resources. As in the world portrayed by George Orwell in 1984, these powers continually jockey for dominance in shifting alliances, while their armies face one another in the torrid, still relatively resource-rich parts of the planet. In this neo-Orwellian world, warfare and the constant pressure of resource competition are the only constants.