It’s been more than a decade since we last got a cinematic look at the lush, vibrant planet of Pandora. On that planet live the Na’vi, 10-foot-tall blue, humanoid creatures with weird appendages hidden in their hair that can connect to other living things, like plugging a USB into them. This process, called tsaheylu, lets the Na’vi ride on animals and give them orders. The appendages can even transfer memories.
In the first movie, the Na’vi focused on having a deep relationship with trees, to which the Na’vi can also connect through tsaheylu. This clan and those similar to it live in gigantic trees, over 100 meters tall, fittingly called “Hometrees” in their language.
In the Na’vi’s view, the trees (and all the other flora and fauna of Pandora) share a connection to Eywa, the Great Mother, their deity. This connection is said to be particularly strong in some trees, like the Tree of Souls, in which Eywa herself is believed to live.
The main conflict in the movie involves trees. The antagonistic Resources Development Administration has come to Pandora to destroy the hometree that is important to the Omaticaya clan of Na’vi and claim the rare element Unobtanium from beneath the tree.
So yeah, trees are a big deal on Pandora. They’re a big deal on Earth as well, since between 40 and 75% of all species live in rainforests. Trees also sequester about a quarter of all terrestrial carbon, which is important for combating climate change.
On Earth, we’re losing more than 5 million hectares of forest per year. You may have heard that corporations are cutting down trees to grow soy. And you might think that vegans are to blame for the deforestation. Those who make this claim neglect to mention that 90% of soy grown is used to feed farmed animals. Additionally, 41% of tropical deforestation is due to the expansion of pasture land for cattle.
Huge multinational companies profit from this destruction, so it’s not just the responsibility of people who live in these countries. The U.S. imported $216 million dollars worth of beef from Brazil in the first nine months of 2021.
Yes, forests aren’t being cut down just for animal agriculture. Plant products like palm oil are also implicated. But as with most things, like climate change, energy consumption, and number of animals killed, animal agriculture has a much bigger effect.
Animal ag uses 83% of farmland globally but only provides 18% of calories and 37% of protein. So we would use a lot less land and destroy fewer trees by being vegan. Watch Scott’s video on Avatar above and visit tryveg.com for tips and recipes if you’d like to give it a shot.