Even the self-proclaimed “King of the World” is concerned about the future — but maybe James Cameron‘s next round of Avatar films can help inspire action and solutions.
When he isn’t making some of the biggest box-office blockbusters of all time, the writer-director-producer (The Terminator, Titanic, Avatar) turns his focus to the environment. As an enthusiastic undersea explorer, Cameron, 62, admits he fears that expected upcoming changes in the government’s priorities could signal perilous times ahead for the planet.
“I think it’s exactly as bad as it could possibly be right now,” Cameron told PEOPLE Tuesday before hosting the 40th Annual Rolex Awards for Enterprise at Hollywood’s Dolby Theater, a gala event in which the elite timepiece maker honors men and women who are pioneering scientific breakthroughs.
In the wake of the recent presidential election, Cameron said he’s feeling pessimistic about the future of recent advancements in environmental policy. “I was hoping that this would be a pivot in history where we’d finally really energize and move forward, take the momentum that’s been gained, hard won over the last few years, and move forward,” he said. However, “we just got hit in the teeth with a brick.”
But if the government won’t be part of the solution to escalating environmental woes like climate change, he’s hoping to inspire audiences to action through his film and television projects.
“Personally, I no longer believe in political solutions,” he said. “As a storyteller, as a media guy, I’m now going to put all my energy into telling this story at a grassroots level,” he said. “We’ve just seen democracy in action, I think not for the betterment of the world, but for the worse. And we need to get democracy in action for the betterment of the world. So I intend to be as loud a voice as I can be in helping people understand that these challenges affect them.”
One of those influential projects, he suggests, could be the upcoming continuation of Avatar, his record-shattering 2009 sci-fi film featuring themes of environmental protection that he wrote and directed. Cameron has four Avatar sequels in development, with the first scheduled to be in theaters by 2018.
“It’s a fictional format and it’s primarily entertainment,” he noted. “But the first film, I don’t think it preached [conservation]. I don’t think it told you specifically what to do, but what I do think it did was remind us how important nature is to us, in our kind of true hearts as human beings, and how we’re drifting away from it. And when it’s out of sight it’s out of mind, and we’re systematically destroying it.”
“I think Avatar allows us to reconnect spiritually,” Cameron continued. “And then all of our other activities with documentaries and so on will be about giving people actual, proximal things that they can do.”
Among his non-fiction projects he’s producing is Showtime’s Emmy-winning documentary series chronicling increasing evidence of global warming.
“This is not some hypothetical thing, and it’s happening,” he said. “Climate change is happening right now. Hopefully we’ll get another season or two from that. It’s about communication at this point.”