The film gets to have its cake here and eat it, too, though. In the world of Pandora, new age nature worship is validated by science - there's a scientifically observable and explainable balance of nature.
Yes but that is exactly what sci-fi IS. You can change the conditions of a story and therefore tell it in a different way, making your point differently.
In the case of Avatar the point is that even with conclusive proof that you are destroying something beautiful and unique big business would STILL destroy it in pursuit of the almighty dollar.
We all know on some level this is true, and while Cameron has a corporate shithead on-scene (just like Buerk in Aliens) to personify this, he simply is doing what corportae shitheads do.
It is hard, for example to blame the military colonel for his actions. He is a warrior and is given a war and the task to win it. The film goes out of its way to show how devoted he is to that goal, blind to everything else. He is, to the last, a perfect soldier, he is, while the antagonist, not really a villain.
Actually it is pretty hard to blame corporate shithead for his actions. For all his massive lack of compassion (hardly a rare flaw) he simply pushes ahead doing his job, strip mining this beautiful natural paradise in service to the almighty dollar.
Basically, despite its simplicity, my natural dislike of such an outright liberal message and the fact the film uses lots of cinematic tricks to tug the heartstrings (well, it is a film) in some ways the environmental message has never been put across so successfully. There is only so long we can all keep carrying on doing exactly what we do, because it is what we do, before it bites us on the ass.
Somewhere, sometime, whether it is climate change, the end of the rainforests, the melting of the polar ice caps, the death of the last Tiger or the drilling of Antarctica, we will all turn around and look at what we have done and consider what we have lost. Climate change is NOT going to wipe out mankind, we are not going to destroy all life through burning oil. What we will do however is change a lot of things in ways we might not like. I'd miss the polar bears and the ice caps, heck I might even miss Norwich.
How much are we willing to lose? How much natural beauty that we take for granted in the same way that the humans in Avatar take Pandora for granted are we losing, and will we ever look back and regret it?
It is easy to be polarised on the environmental debate but it is also easy to forget most people if wel led and educated will be happy to change for the better, without completely giving up cars to keep the tree huggers happy and without completely going down the free market, might is right, money is power route.
We need a third way, Avatar is a film that adds to the debate in an interesting if simplistic way, as well as cinematically being probably the best thing on the big screen since ROTK. Good on Cameron I say.