Avatar, Oil Sands and the Amazon

March 18, 2011 - 1:30pm to 3:00pm

Field notes from the Energy Indigenous Environment Interface research program

The most commercially successful film in history deals with indigenous peoples and industrial resource extraction to feed humanity’s growing consumption of energy. Although set in a futuristic world on the fictitious planet of Pandora, parallels to the Amazon jungle and Alberta’s oil sands have not been lost on the public. This was underscored by Canadian director James Cameron’s recent trip to Brazil supporting indigenous peoples’ opposition to the Bel Monte dam in the Amazon followed by a tour of Alberta’s oil sand operations and meetings with First Nations. 

This talk is the first public sharing of field notes from the Energy Indigenous Environment Interface research program, funded by ISEEE and SSHRC, where Dr. David Lertzman has been collecting primary data with Achuar people of the Ecuadorian Amazon and Cree people of Alberta’s northern boreal forest. Both cases in this comparative analysis highlight indigenous peoples dependent upon forest ecosystems rich with fossil fuels. The Achuar are completely opposed to petroleum development seeing it as a “death project” for their people. The Little Red River Cree are working with industry to engage more socially and environmentally responsible behaviours. 

We will see how these real-world cases are far more compelling, urgent, and instructive than the fictitious world of Pandora, hopefully giving insight to new tools and best practices for improving the ecological, social, and cross-cultural performance of industry and communities. Dr.  David Lertzman is assistant professor of environmental management and sustainable development at the Haskayne School of Business. His research examines the environmental interface of indigenous peoples and energy industries.  


Dr. David Lertzman examines the environmental interface of indigenous peoples and energy industries. 

$25 per person (includes GST) 

Information: [email protected], 403.220.3375 

Register at:



Petroleum Club
319 5 Avenue SW
Calgary , AB