Nearly four years ago, Lissa Harris wrote a titillating Grist profile of two European activists who were, as she put it, “raising cash to save the rainforest, one money shot at a time.” That story, “Norwegian Wood,” became one of Grist’s all-time greatest hits. Recently, while researching another story, I discovered that the dynamic duo behind the none-too-subtly named Fuck for Forest was still … well, going at it. And it appeared they’d even found a place to sink their hard-earned bucks, money that environmental groups were shying away from back in 2004. So I decided to get in touch and find out what they’ve been up to.
Far removed from the bleak landscape of in flagrante income ingratitude that Harris had reported on, Tommy Hol Ellingsen and Leona Johansson have now found organizations in Central and South America that are happy for the helping hand. Over the last two years, they’ve spent about $90,000 in Costa Rica and $90,000 more in Ecuador on reforestation and ecology projects. They have a volunteer on the ground in Ecuador and an assistant at their Berlin base. And all the while, they continue to pimp the crunchy-sex website that raises their dough.
An email from Johansson, 25, and Ellingsen, 31 — who live together as “lovers and friends in an open relationship” — feels something like a brief transcontinental ménage a trois. “Hello love!” they gush, and they sign off with xx’s and oo’s and exhortations to “change reality with love and sexuality!” But when I got ahold of them by phone, it was a different story: Johansson, who answered, handed the phone to her other half, who tackled my questions in nearly flawless, no-nonsense, rapid-fire English. A follow-up conversation by email revealed that these two are nothing if not serious about their life’s work.
We last wrote about you in 2004 — what have you been up to since then?
We are now working on the ground in Costa Rica and Ecuador. We got in touch with Pro Regenwald, a German organization from Munich that connected us with [Arbofilia, an organization] in Costa Rica that is trying to build an ecological corridor to connect fragments of forest. We are helping them purchase forest and farmland for reforestation. We have been there one time last winter, for a month.
In Ecuador, we are working with an ecologist from the U.S. who works with an indigenous tribe. She is giving them information about how to reforest, how to keep alive their cultural heritage about medicinal plants and their understanding of nature and communication — all of it is disappearing. The situation is totally fucked up. Costa Rica is our “safe” project — it’s possible to work with the government there about environmental issues; in Ecuador, you cannot go and buy land, so it is more informational work.
Were you relieved to find groups that would take your help, after encountering so much resistance at the start?
For us it was just a question of time. It was kind of frustrating to meet such hesitation, such a double moral. We didn’t really expect that kind of problem, but when it happened it wasn’t totally shocking … we knew sooner or later we would find some project to support.
A lot of the big environmental organizations have become more like an institutionalized industry — they are working closely with the same sectors that are destroying the environment. We prefer to work with small groups.
How many members do you have now, and how much money have you raised?
We have about 1,000 members on [our website] every month, and have the last three years raised about $350,000.
You mentioned in your email that you’ve been working on an “erotic eco-documentary.” Can you tell me more about that?
Yes, we are working on an erotic ecological documentary about our work and the projects in Ecuador and Costa Rica. It will hopefully shed light on sexuality and nature through the eyes and experiences of erotic activists and people connected to FFF. It is made entirely by FFF and is made out of intention to express a message and expression outside the borders of both erotic films and ecological documentaries. It is in the cutting process and has no real release date. It gets ready in time …
Is FFF a full-time job for you?
Right now FFF is a full-time “job” — we just have no time to do anything else. And FFF is not a job for us. It is an expression and life mission. We make extra money to stay alive through selling FFF T-shirts and posters, as well as jewelry made by the tribe we are helping in Ecuador. We also have a helper called Natty — helping FFF daily nowadays. She has a practicum at FFF, getting money from the German government to help us save nature.
What are your plans for the summer, and for the future?
Last year we focused a lot on outdoor festivals and events with a lot of people, to do FFF info and to get people involved. This summer we are thinking about focusing more on ecological seminars and events, but we will also go to where people invite us to do FFF info, so we have to see the next months where the wind is blowing.
We do not know how long FFF will exist. It is our intention to do this as long as we feel it is important. Right now we feel what we are doing is extremely important, but we do not live in the future. We also want to keep the group organizing FFF on a small scale to not get caught in the trap of a lot of established ecological organizations, which have become a lot like what they before were fighting.
Do you still encounter people who think sex and environmentalism don’t mix?
Our experience around sex, nature, and double moral is that it seems that open sexual behavior is a much more sensitive subject than nature getting destroyed. Since we had a lot of problems with organizations that did not want to help us or accept donations from us, we asked ourselves what this is all about. WWF in Holland said no to money from FFF. In a way, they say with this that all people working with sex are too “bad” to save nature. At the same time, they accept money from nature-destroying industries because this is more accepted by the general public. We think it is kind of scary when, in the modern society, the innocence of sex is not tolerated while industrialization of the world is generally accepted.
What else would you like Grist readers to know about you?
FFF is growing and we need help to make a greener and sexier planet. We would love everyone with ideas to contact us. We need to collect a lot more funds to make a bigger change. Right now the project in Costa Rica needs a lot of funding to be able to keep the project safe for the future. If you like FFF, please think about sending us some erotic images of you and friends.
We also know that [there are] a lot of people with potential to get attention. We are looking for celebrities who want to help us to front FFF and our message. To have fame does not have to be stupid and create just stupid behavior. We need more people to fuck for forest, and it would be nice to get some royal people or stars to join in. So if you feel you can contribute with sexual attention, please contact us.
We are also working on more ways to liberate sexuality. Sex is nature. We have to free ourselves to free nature. So sex and nudity is a human right, and should not be criminalized. Most places it is forbidden to have sex or be nude in public. Seems we have less rights than dogs! We will in the future do our best to reclaim nature, inside and outside.