Avatar 2: What happened to Earth?

Cameron Frew
A still from Avatar 2 of Pandora, which resembles Earth20th Century Studios

Avatar 2 finally took audiences back to Pandora, James Cameron’s dreamy, alien paradise – but what happened to Earth before The Way of Water?

When Avatar first hit cinemas in 2009, P.A.D.S spread among the masses: Post-Avatar Depression Syndrome. This isn’t a joke, thousands of viewers sought comfort online from not being able to experience the wonders of Pandora outside movie theaters.

Even after 13 years, Cameron’s distant world is every bit as awe-inspiring and engrossing.

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Now, we’ve finally got a sequel with Avatar: The Way of Water, and the Pandora blues have come rushing back – the question is, what happened to Earth in the world of the movie?

What happened to Earth before Avatar 2?

While details are scattered across games, novels, and articles about the franchise, it boils down to this: by the time of Avatar 2, Earth is a shadow of itself, ruined and rendered baron by deforestation, conflicts, overpopulation, famine, climate change, and more.

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In the first Avatar, as Jake pleads for Eywa’s help in fighting against the “sky people” following the demolition of Hometree, he says: “If Grace is there with you – look in her memories – she can show you the world we come from. There’s no green there. They killed their mother, and they’re gonna do the same here.”

The planet began crumbling in the 22nd century. Deforestation and excessive mineral mining steadily depleted Earth’s natural resources, not to mention the near-total extinction of wildlife and sea life, as per Avatar: Pandora Rising.

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A still from Avatar 220th Century Studios

By 2030, things got real Soylent Green on Earth. In lieu of crops and other sources of food, the RDA developed algae to feed the 20 billion people across the planet. In the next decade, the east coast of the US was ripped apart by a tsunami and ocean levels rose across the world.

Few details are known about the war in the 22nd century, but we know that’s how Jake Sully was paralyzed while serving as a Marine. The conflict sparked an energy crisis, with the world’s superpowers pointing their attention to the stars to find a new home – or somewhere else to destroy.

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The first Avatar was originally going to feature Earth, but these scenes were cut as Cameron felt they made the opening’s pacing feel a bit awkward. According to producer John Landau, Avatar 5 will follow Neytiri as she travels to Earth.

All this said, Earth isn’t dead yet. In Avatar 2, Quaritch is reborn as recombinant following his death, with his memories and DNA sent back to Earth to be transferred into his Avatar. General Frances Ardmore (Edie Falco), the new commander in charge of the RDA, tells him her mission is to “make Pandora the new home for humanity.”

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Avatar: The Way of Water is available to buy on 4K UHD here, and it’s also available to stream on Disney Plus, which you can sign up for here. Check out our other coverage below:

Avatar 2 review | Avatar 2 cast and characters | The Way of Water ending explained | Best way to watch Avatar 2 | Avatar 2 budget: How much did it cost? | Who dies in Avatar: The Way of Water? | Why did Avatar 2 take so long to make? | What is an Avatar? Na’vi explained | Avatar 2: Tulkun and Amrita explained | Avatar 2 racism accusations | Is there an Avatar 2 director’s cut? | How old is Kiri in Avatar: The Way of Water? | Top 50 highest-grossing movies of all time | Avatar 3

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You can also check out our Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora coverage below:

How to restore energy & health | How to fast travel | Can you pet your Ikran? | Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora system requirements | Does Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora have crossplay and cross-progression? | Does Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora have multiplayer or co-op? | Is Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora canon? | Can you play as a human in Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora? | Will Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora be on PS4 and Xbox One?

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About The Author

Cameron is Deputy TV and Movies Editor at Dexerto. He's an action movie aficionado, '80s obsessive, Oscars enthusiast, and a staunch Scot. He earned a First-Class Honours Degree in Multimedia Journalism from Glasgow Caledonian University, accredited by the NCTJ and BJTC. He began his career at UNILAD, starting as a Junior Journalist and becoming Entertainment Editor prior to joining Dexerto. You can contact him at cameron.frew@dexerto.com.