James Cameron’s Avatar is a global success, breaking records as the most money-making film ever made. In his epic story of corporate greed versus native people, Cameron highlights the need for everyone to live in a more environmentally responsible way. Now he’s putting his advocacy where his mouth is. The New York Times reports that the billionaire director recently traveled to Brazil to meet with threatened indigenous tribes of the Amazon.

The Brazilian government plans to build the Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River, in the heart of the Amazon rain forest. This would flood hundreds of square miles of the Amazon, dry up a 60-mile stretch of the river, and devastate the tribes who live along it. On April 20, the Brazilian government will hold an auction for contract bids, a step that concerns the indigenous Brazilian population. Cameron has pledged to help them.

In the 15 years since Cameron wrote Avatar, he has lived an environmentally conscious life. As the NY Times reports, the director lives in a solar- and wind-powered Santa Barbara home which includes an organic garden and hybrid cars parked in the garage. But the high-profile success of Avatar has made him an advocate for Mother Earth. As Cameron told the NY Times, “The dam is a quintessential example of the type of thing we are showing in Avatar — the collision of a technological civilization’s vision for progress at the expense of the natural world and the cultures of the indigenous people that live there.”

Recently, he met with more than 70 natives of the Brazilian rain forest. While most of the tribes didn’t know about the movie, they did know they were meeting with someone who could be a powerful advocate. Cameron, his wife Suzy Amis, and others toured the rain forest, examining flora and fauna that will be completely devastated by the impending dam. They heard speeches from locals expressing their frustration. Some told Cameron they would be willing to die to stop the dam that will destroy their way of life.

Cameron has written a letter to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva regarding the dam, pressing for a meeting. He plans to return to return this week to the Amazon with Avatar cast member Sigourney Weaver. As Cameron told the NY Times, “It’s not like there is any pressure on me or anything. These people really are looking for me to do something about their situation. We have to try to stop this dam. Their whole way of life, their society as they know it, depends on it.”

For further reading:

Amazon tribes turn to 'Avatar' to stop devastating dam
Director James Cameron allies with indigenous populations to stop Brazil’s Belo Monte dam.