Nachhaltigkeit Werbung Dokumentation Fechner

 Use ‘Sex Sells’ to Save the Climate? How Does That Work?

Unconventional ways to save the climate

Australia is burning, Antarctica is breaking apart and tens of thousands of animal species are vanishing every year. Our environment is in crisis mode. That is what we read almost every day in the media. Even a small donation could help. Yet many people prefer to look the other way. Why? We have found some people who know about the problem and use unconventional methods as a result.

Australia is burning, Antarctica is breaking apart and tens of thousands of animal species are vanishing every year. Our environment is in crisis mode. That is what we read almost every day in the media. Even a small donation could help. Yet many people prefer to look the other way. Why? We have found some people who know about the problem and use unconventional methods as a result.

It was the end of last year when the bush fires spread in Australia, spurred on by strong winds. Like the fire, an image featuring a map of the continent burning in many places spread on the social networks. Many people thus used their reach to draw attention to the catastrophe. Children with sooty faces, koalas with singed fur – images like these mostly followed the appeals for donations in the stories, then a direct link to the donation page was often only a swipe away.

This, or something like it, is our experience of fundraising campaigns online. Kaylen Ward went one step further. The Instagram model from the U.S. published a long list of aid agencies with the aim of encouraging her followers to donate. In order to ensure greater attention, she provided an erotic incentive. For every US$10 donated to agencies helping in Australia, she sent a naked picture of herself.

According to her own estimates, she received 20,000 messages on Twitter within just over 24 hours. In an interview with German newspaper Bild, she said, “This sounds ridiculous, but I had to hire people who helped sort through the direct messages, check the donations and send a hot picture.” She said that the campaign has now raised US$700,000 in donations.

Regardless of exactly how much has now been donated, without using her body – which, incidentally, also meant that her Instagram account was blocked – Ward would probably have reached far fewer people and raised less money. But why?

One of the reasons is the distance between an individual and the event. This was one of the findings from a study conducted by scientists at the University of New England. The phenomenon of psychological distance, whereby a problem appears too far away in terms of geography, time or culture, was confirmed in a survey on the topic of climate change. “When we presented messages designed to increase psychological distance, our participants became less concerned about climate change and more disengaged,” the researchers reported in an article in British newspaper The Guardian.

People are also often overwhelmed by the scale of a crisis. This has been demonstrated by Paul Slovic, professor of psychology at the University of Oregon in the U.S., who has been studying the psychology of donations for years. It is also the reason that many charitable organizations focus on the fates of individuals in their appeals. By conducting an experiment, he found out that if we are shown only figures and statistics, which admittedly reflect the size of the problem but do not reach us on an emotional level and present us with a far larger challenge, we donate significantly less.

In addition, we simply feel better when we see our support, whether it takes the form of donations or volunteer work, making an impact. That is also a key motivator for making further donations according to Slovic’s study. If, on the other hand, the aid we provide feels like a drop in the ocean, willingness to donate falls dramatically.

Carl Fechner also knows about the importance of psychology for the topic of climate change. The director and environmental activist is known for his attention-grabbing volunteer work. He reached around seven million people worldwide ten years ago with his documentary “The Fourth Revolution – Energy.” He reported on the global fight for a clean, secure and fair future through centralized renewable energies.

After all, Fechner advocates the same personally – a complete changeover to renewable resources. In 2019, Fechner received the German Solar Prize for his commitment, and is also considered a pioneer and guiding light of today’s climate movement. However, there are also concerns about Fechner’s cinematic implementation. The presentation may be too beautiful, too emotional, thus making it all too easy for critics to accuse Fechner of embellishment. But it is precisely these aesthetics that drive people to the cinema. Fechner makes documentary films popular because he arranges them like feature films. His goal is to entertain the audience and see them leave the cinema somewhat happy. With his film, he wants to win over the minds of his audience through their hearts. Maybe his film can even contribute to clearing what Fechner sees as the biggest barrier to the energy transition out of the way: “The lethargy of people. This looking away, this ‘people should, but I don’t’ – the discrepancy between knowledge and action.”

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The fascination of the small steps that have so often moved big things – that is the core of “Sonnenallee”. Do something about climate change and global warming. Leave the following generations an environment worth living in. Think new, be courageous, have ideas and implement them. Sonnenallee tells the stories behind these people. Because we think that there is no more time to wait and see.

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