Author: Marco Suazo, Pima Community College
Climate change needs a solution but how does one provoke action? The United Nation’s Youtube channel posted a short film titled “Nations United: Urgent Solutions for Urgent Times” and chapter one “Climate and our planet” which talks specifically about climate change and how to fix it. There is no refuting the facts about climate change but the purpose of this video is to convince others to take action which you can probably tell from the film’s title. Convincing people isn’t all about facts but is mostly based on pulling on the strings of people’s emotions. While reviewing the video, some might ask what is the best approach to provoke action and you might think that it’s the logic that provokes action but our emotions outweigh logic. At first glance, you might not notice how the video tries to manipulate your emotions but very subtly it stirs one’s emotions.
The chapter “Climate and our planet” begins in Australia with a woman recording herself in her house and she points the camera towards the window which shows her neighbor covered in smoke and fire. She proceeds to put out a small fire outside her house, then she gets in the car and leaves the area. The video states that “nearly 3 billion animals were killed or displaced by these fires” and “the last decade was the hottest on record”(Newton). Then it shows a flooding in Indonesia, you can see a car being dragged away by water, a house getting destroyed, and also what seems like a soldier getting pulled by the current. After that footage was shown they add a statement “extreme weather displaces 20 million people a year”(Newton).
The video continues to show footage of various weather disasters around the world. There is footage of a cyclone flooding the area and fires in California burning down buildings and trees along with fighter fighters and planes trying to take it out, that footage was followed by “the climate crisis is happening now”(Newton). Then there are videos of people protesting about climate change along with their chants as music in the background, a climate activist said “climate change is here now and it is killing people right now”(Newton). Don Cheadle who is an actor (better known as Iron Man’s right- hand man) makes a speech about how we need to take action for the better before it is too late. Keywords or phrases Don Cheadle says, “we’re not doing enough”, “we’re not treating it like the emergency it is”, “have we done enough”, “You know it, I know it and we know what we need to do. We need to reduce global emissions by 50% by 2030”, “we need a rapid but just transition to renewable energy”, “we need to stop deforestation”, “we need to think about what we eat”, and “are we going to be able to work together urgently to solve this?” (Newton).
The film had plenty of facts and statistics that support the claims they’re making but even with all the supporting data nothing could beat the way they manipulated our emotions to put fear and guilt into us. From the beginning, it is almost as if we were watching a movie because the woman from Australia was escaping her neighborhood that was on fire, no facts were given until the end but yet I already felt a sense of urgency to do something. Afterward, they gave us some data, “nearly 3 billion animals were killed or displaced by these fires” (Newton) and reading that made me feel uneasy and worried. Then the film plays this montage of various weather disasters around the world and some were pretty vivid, when I first saw the montage it looked like the world was ending and I felt a sense of fear. One of my favorite parts of the film was the footage of people protesting around the world and there was a personal connection because when I was in high school we had a day when we walked outside to protest around downtown.
Towards the end of the film, the actor Don Cheadle made a speech on climate change and the speech had a pattern of using the word “we” a lot, which makes the person watching the film feel at fault or guilty. According to Harvard “they elucidate one overarching conclusion: emotions powerfully, predictably, and pervasively influence decision making” (Lerner) so for example when he says “have we done enough” (Newton), it pokes at your feelings when he makes you feel part of the problem. It is effective and even though during the film they added data with charts and statistics about climate change it was still not enough to make someone take action. The best example of this is at the end when he asks “are we going to be able to work together urgently to solve this?” (Newton) and it makes you ponder. How can someone provoke action? According to PubMed Central (PMC) “fear appeals are effective at positively influencing attitude, intentions, and behaviors” (Tannenbaum)so you can provoke action by appealing to fear or guilt.
In hindsight, the film did a great job putting the visuals, sounds, facts, and editing altogether. All of that put together was very effective in manipulating my emotions and although some might think it’s a bad thing, I think it’s necessary to motivate people to take action. Bipartisanship is needed to fix climate change and convincing political leaders is not easy when a lot of these fossil fuel corporations are lobbying them, so appealing to someone’s emotions is crucial to fixing climate change. The video has worrisome images along with dialogue and music that gave me a sense of fear, urgency, and some guilt but facts didn’t do much but enforce these feelings. This leads me to the conclusion that the best way to provoke action is by pulling on the strings of people’s emotions.
Lerner S, Jennifer. “Emotion and Decision Making” Scholar at Harvard. 16 June, 2014. https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/jenniferlerner/files/annual_review_manuscript_june_16_final.final_.pdf
Newton, Thanie. “Nations United: Urgent Solutions for Urgent Times. ” Youtube, uploaded by United Nations, 19 Sep, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVWHuJOmaEk&t=535s
Tannenbaum, Melanie. “Appealing to fear: A Meta-Analysis of Fear Appeal Effectiveness and Theories” PMC. 30 Jan, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5789790/