James Cameron Donates $1 Million to “No on Prop 23″ Campaign
James Cameron, the director of films like “Avatar” and “Terminator 2,” is hardly one to shy away from contentious environmental issues. Last April, after visiting Brazil’s Xingu River, he wrote a letter to Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, the country’s president, urging him to “take the moral high ground” and halt construction of an enormous dam project.
“Your nation could be an example to the world for how a rapidly growing economy can be expertly balanced with environmental responsibility,” he wrote.
Then, in late September, the director made another excursion—this one to Alberta, Canada—to learn about massive oil sands projects. The oil sands’ “unimaginable” vastness, he later told the L.A. Times, is an indication that our energy development needs to slow down.
"When you've got this much money at stake, and we're talking about hundreds of billions of dollars, people are going to move too fast…There's a stampede right now, and I think they're spending a tenth of what they need for the research," he said.
This week, Cameron added another installment to his environmental oeuvre by donating $1 million to the campaign against California’s Proposition 23. Prop. 23, which has already sustained fierce censure from a slew of green groups, is a ballot initiative that aims to suspend the state’s global warming law until unemployment dips to 5.5 percent. Critics say Prop 23 is a thinly veiled attempt by the oil industry to roll back the Global Warming Solutions Act (A.B. 32), one of the country’s most comprehensive environmental laws. Advocates say the proposition could help pull California out of a deep recession.
Speaking at the Environmental Media Awards on Saturday night, Cameron explained his decision to oppose Proposition 23.
“The AB 32 legislation is such important, landmark legislation on climate change and a clean energy economy that we’ve just got to win this one and we’ve got to win it resoundingly,” he said. “So I’ve dumped a bunch of money into that, which I don’t normally do—I just feel like it’s such a line in the sand fight that we have to win.”
Cameron’s contribution brings the amount of money raised by critics of the legislation to about $20 million. Meanwhile, big players in the oil industry, who are responsible for more than 98 percent of the measure’s total funding (Texas-based Valero Energy Corp. has spent $4 million; and Tesoro Corp., another energy giant, has thus far put in $1.5 million.), have raised a little less than half of that. Koch Industries, which is the single largest contributor to Congress when it comes to energy-related issues, has, like Cameron, shelled out $1 million.
Because these industries are immensely wealthy (and prone to last-minute blitzkriegs of campaign fundraising), many environmentalists are wary about declaring victory just because they’re ahead funding-wise.
“We are girding for what the oil companies traditionally have done on California ballot measures, when they've dumped millions of dollars into the campaign in the final stretch," Steve Maviglio, a No on Prop 23 spokesman, said recently.
Still, Cameron’s donation could help draw national attention to the issue – an important consideration, given that 89 percent of Prop. 23’s economic support has flowed in from out of state. If Cameron’s enthusiasm – both rhetorical and monetary – is matched by that of other public figures, it could provide the exact boost environmentalists are hoping for.