Celeb Enviro-Activist James Cameron Defends BP

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 6/15/2010 12:04:00 AM
Given that he is Hollywood's most bankable director--or among the top 3 at least--Avatar and Titanic director James Cameron certainly isn't an unknown quantity. As the former film would suggest, he is very much in the conflicted movie star mold: he makes a living selling commercially successful titles while deploring the surrounding commercial infrastructure that enables his very success. Certainly, he is no Charlton Heston--an actor with strong conservative conservative leanings.

However, one of the surprising things you may want to know about him is that, despite his left-of-centre and environmental stylings, Cameron does feel regret about the plight of poor old BP. Here is a guy who, in a Bono-esque frame of mind, is protesting the proposed construction of the Belo Monte megadam in Brazil. (If constructed, it would be the third largest dam in the world in terms of output.) A few days ago, I cam across an interesting interview of him with the Wall Street Journal's technology correspondent Kara Swisher that nobody else seems to have noticed. Among other topics, Cameron (James, not David) describes how he has offered help to BP as one of his interests is operating submersibles that may aid in the spill control efforts:

MS. SWISHER: Let's talk a little bit about BP.

MR. CAMERON: It goes back to loving exploration and underwater technology.

For 22 years, I have been working with a number of the top people in the very small deep-submergence communities. They build the subs and I go in them or I build a robotic vehicle, take it down in a sub, do exploration, do forensic wreck surveys. I then have this hobby called directing movies that I do occasionally. Over the last few weeks, I have watched, as we all have, with growing horror and heartache, what is happening in the Gulf.

I know really, really smart people that work at depths much greater than what that well is at. They do not drill for oil, but they operate all kinds of vehicles, all kinds of electronic optical-fiber systems, and have all the remote manipulators and so on. Most importantly, they know the engineering that it requires to get something done at that depth. I thought, "Why don't I get all these people together for a brainstorming session?"

MS. SWISHER: You had gone to BP first?

MR. CAMERON: They could not have been more gracious, but they basically said we've got the assets on site that we need. We sat in a room for 10 hours and worked this problem out. It is a very, very complex problem. What you find out is there are things that hold [BP] back from the obvious things like, put a clamp on it, put a valve on it, screw something onto it. It is not a plumbing problem. If they make a mistake, they can blow out down below. It could come up in 30 places and then you will never contain it.

I never thought I would be defending BP. I think they have got some very good engineers working on this problem. I think there are a lot of political shenanigans going on, and there was no transparency whatsoever. I started to shift my perspective to this idea that the government really needs to have its own independent ability to go down there and image the site, survey the site, and do its own investigation and monitor it.

MR. MOSSBERG: So, what is the result of this?

MR. CAMERON: We are writing it all up and putting in reports to various agencies. This was done privately. This was not done under our government process.

Is James Cameron merely America bashing like he did with the overt Iraq references in Avatar? Even Americans enjoy this "sport" which is perhaps more popular than football. Certainly, his environmental credentials would be put under doubt if he were siding with the pantomime villain here of BP. After all, Avatar was about resource exploitation. If a highest-profile environmental activist of all people could say that BP is tackling matters in good faith, then the US hysteria looks rather less justified, doesn't it?