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The Power of Fur

Fur sells. The proof is in the toilet paper commercials – if you could envision yourself wiping your ass with the animal itself, it can sell you TP.  Bears, puppies, and baby seals make great TP pushers (and toilet paper in a pinch). Blob fish, not so much. In fact, a furry animal can sell you just about anything – soap, cars, you name it.

So I’ll start by absolving myself – I don’t like those commercials. I don’t like them for many reasons I’d be happy to explain to anyone who actually cares to listen; but not here. No, here I’d actually like to give kudos to Nissan and Dawn. And not that fun sarcastic kudos you may expect from me. These guys have actually done the Earth a service – they’ve coated it in much needed fur.

The power of fur came to my consciousness recently thanks to the Pepsi Refresh project. Pepsi has decided to allot its charitable giving to causes that are suggested and voted on by an engaged public. A great concept if you ask me – but nobody did. What struck me about this project was the nature of the causes. Here’s a list of the top five causes by vote in the $5000 category:

1) Polk County Humane Society

2) Healthy food for people in need

3) Summer youth center

4) Train charity dogs for children

5) Animal food bank

Let’s break it down: two concerned with the welfare of animals, #1 and #5 (#5 is to feed hungry animals, not homeless carnivorous humans), one with health, #2, one with kids, #3 (the human furry animal), and one with animals and kids – I call that one the ‘Emotional Crippler’.

The top environmental cause? #17. Save the bird habitats. Feathery fur.

Granted, this is in the piddly $5000 category.

So at the big money table? the $250,000 grants? 4 environmental causes in the top 100. 100!!!!

The Earth is getting smoked.

I thought I better cross-check this rigorous scientific study, so I went over to the Hunger Site. This is a fantastic site where you click a button and sponsors pay to feed hungry people around the globe. The easiest good deed you ever did. They do the same for other causes, like saving rainforests and rescuing animals. I took a look at their Facebook ‘likes’ number – the ultimate observation for such clinical research. The hunger cause, the namesake, predictably had a solid 15,000 likes. I wasn’t surprised to see that the rainforest cause came in under that, at 11,000.

And the animal rescue cause?


So now, my obligatory stab at explaining the power of fur.  While I usually shoot for the  silver bullet answer, I think there’s a few reasons for fur’s lofty status. One, we are defenders of innocence. Furry animals, and those human furry animals (kids) represent the wide-eyed optimism we lose as the world shows it’s ugly side; they represent a world without betrayal, fear or stress. That innocence is something to protect, and we do so with fervor. Second, furry creatures cannot defend themselves – somehow we’ve created that impression of bears even – and a collective material instinct leads us to do the defending for them, to see that they’re not taken advantage of. Finally, many of us have happy personal memories with these furry beings – thanks to that very innocence and dependence  – that reassured us, comforted us, and reminded us of the good in the world. We’re obliged to protect those memories and provide them for others.

Not so many of us have particularly heart-warming, happy memories of glaciers – even before they started melting.

  1. leila
    September 16, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Charismatic Megafauna are undeniably potent poster children. I don’t agree with all his positions (e.g. on GMOs), but this piece — http://blog.sustainablog.org/should-charismatic-megafauna-be-the-face-of-climate-change/ — raises an important point about the problem of using critters as the face climate change: if we don’t respond properly to the challenge of climate change humans will suffer (and are already suffering) massive consequences. We need to envision hunger, starvation, political instability, and mass migration. Climate change consequence needs a human face too.

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