Resisting Banks that Fund Climate Change

Progressive Christian Social Action

 

Resisting Banks that Fund Climate Change

Re-posted here on United Methodist Insight e-magazine.

Last Wednesday, September 25, during the week of the Global Climate Strike, I participated in an action in San Francisco that focused on big banks, in solidarity with the millions of children, young people, and their allies who are calling for emergency action on climate change. Since the Paris Climate Agreement’s adoption in 2016, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing fossil-fuel projects that emit greenhouse gases that induce climate change.  In our San Francisco action, I was one of about 500 people who gathered at the financial district, blocking the doors to banks that invest most heavily in finance fossil fuel projects, primarily the top four banks: JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi and Bank of America, all based in the U.S. We also  created a two-block long series of murals that portrayed the world that we want to see. The action included song, dance, chanting, signs and banners, walking a labyrinth (one of the murals), clowning, and street theater.

These actions of creative imagining and resistance to the financial powers highlighted the systemic changes that need to be made if we are to effectively address the climate crisis, changes that go far beyond reducing our individual carbon footprints, investing in renewable energy, trying to convince others that climate change is real, or contacting our elected representatives and voting every four years. For instance, if we follow the money, we will see that there are powerful (embodied) forces at work that are invested in continuing the fossil fuel party until the last reserves of oil, gas, and coal are used up, even though this would result in absolute climate catastrophe and extinguish hope for an abundant future of life on earth.

These embodied institutional forces include fossil fuel companies, which have sown doubt about the reality of climate change despite knowing since the 1970s that their products warm the planet. They include transnational banks and other dominant financial institutions, which invest in fossil fuel projects and lobby government officials who are beholden to them to prevent strong climate action. They include the governments of the world, which (according to the IMF) subsidize fossil fuels at the rate of $10 million per minute.

In my book Shaking the Gates of Hell: Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization, I write, “The system is designed for the results it is getting, and it is paying off handsomely for those for whom the system is designed.” Published in 2007, with a revised version coming in January 2020, this is still true today.

Of course, we need to go through normal political channels to work for the changes that need to be made.  But there comes a point when we the people need to exercise more political muscle than is possible through so-called “normal” channels.  It becomes imperative for us to call for change in more dramatic ways, in ways that will shake the gates of hell and make a more hopeful future possible.  We must fully face the extremity of our situation. Creative nonviolent direct actions highlight the profound changes that will need to be made if we are to faithfully respond to the cries of the children and to the call of God in this time of climate emergency.

For more information:

See more photos of murals, close up:  San Francisco Climate Strike Street Murals Take Over Wall Street West.

See the report, Banking on Climate Change, which names the banks that have played the biggest role in funding fossil fuel projects. A half-dozen environmental groups — Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack, Sierra Club, Oil Change International, Indigenous Environmental Network, and Honor the Earth — authored the 2019 report, which was endorsed by 160 organizations worldwide. It tracked the financing for 1,800 companies involved in extracting, transporting, burning, or storing fossil fuels or fossil-generated electricity and examined the roles played by banks worldwide.

Act now:

  • Close your bank accounts in protest if you bank in any of the banks named in “Banking on Climate Change.” Transfer your money and business to a local bank or community credit union.
  • Speak to a manager and ask them to call their main branch to demand that they stop investing in fossil fuel projects and instead invest in clean solutions. You can take this action privately or do it publicly as part of a demonstration after contacting the media and organizing a support rally.
  • Demand that banks divest from fossil fuels.

See article by Sharon Kelly, Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact.

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Other blog postings about climate change can be found here.  

 

Youth-Led Climate Actions

Progressive Christian Social Action

Youth-Led Climate Campaigns

I often walk along a canal in the woods near my home.  One day, while walking there with my teenage granddaughters and two of their friends, our talk turned from light-hearted banter to the state of the planet.  Sixteen-year-old Darren said, “When I think of the future, it’s hard to be optimistic…  The media feeds you a lot of negativity.” We all walked silently as his words sunk in. The other kids seemed to agree with him. I agreed with him. But hope is different than optimism, so I shared a few words of comfort and hope.

While we need to take the warnings of climate scientists seriously, being stuck in powerlessness and despair doesn’t help. There are actions we can take that not only make us feel more hopeful, but that improve prospects for the future and make the world a more hopeful place.  And in many cases, young people are leading the way, making clear the extremity of our situation and showing us that we need to treat climate change as the emergency that it is.

Two months after the walk I took with the young people along the canal, several of these teens, including Darren, attended a climate change agents’ camp organized by Full Circle Learning, a locally-based international nonprofit that has worked in thirty countries to equip children and youth to become agents of change. At the camp they learned about mitigating climate change by reducing their carbon footprints, adapting to climate change by becoming resilient and helping build resilient communities, educating others, and acting in solidarity with people who are suffering immediate harm caused by climate change in vulnerable countries.

I later asked Darren how the climate change agents’ camp had impacted him. He said it had helped him in several ways. He acknowledged that the media does show some positive stories of people working to bring about change, but that “it’s more believable to be among people who are actually working for change.” He also spoke of hope: “It helped to be with people living, eating, and sleeping together while working toward the common goal of conserving the world. Sharing the same passion gives me a sense of hope and obligation to act upon that hope.” He added, “It gives me a sense of security to know we have the support of our prior generations.  It helps to know we have someone older than us backing us up.”

This is a time of global turmoil and great challenge. Young people are taking action on climate change around the world, and in many cases leading the way, but we need to back them up. Tomorrow night I will be giving a presentation at the Madelyn Helling Library on the following youth-led campaigns:

Juliana vs. the United States is an ongoing high-stakes lawsuit in which 21 young people, supported by Our Children’s Trust, are suing the federal government for violating their rights to life, liberty, and property by knowingly enacting policies that cause climate change. The lawsuit was filed in 2015 by a group of young people who claim a constitutional right to “a climate system capable of sustaining human life” and charge that the US government is violating that right through policies that promote climate change. They are calling on the court to order the federal government to enact and implement a “National Climate Recovery Plan” that would restore atmospheric levels of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) to 350 parts per million, stabilize the climate, and de-acidify the oceans. Both the Obama and Trump administrations have tried to have this case dismissed, but judges have refused to do so. The court has already ruled that the plaintiffs have “the right to a climate system capable of supporting human life,” that “air, running water, sea, and the seashore” are public trust assets, and that the government “has failed to protect them.” The court has also ruled that this case will not be about whether climate change is real or human-caused because “the science is undisputed.” Some have called this “the trial of the century.”

Fossil Fuel Divestment: The campaign to get institutions to divest from fossil fuels emerged in 2010 on US college and university campuses, with students urging their administrations to turn their investments in the fossil fuel industry into investments in clean energy and communities most impacted by climate change. In 2012, 350.org launched their Go Fossil Free Campaign, which calls on colleges, universities, cities, religious institutions, and pension funds to withdraw their investments from fossil fuel companies. To date, $11 trillion has been divested from coal, oil, and gas 350.org makes clear that climate change is a moral issue and explains that “It’s wrong to profit from wrecking the planet.” Campaigns for institutional divestment are active and growing around the world.  Colleges and universities continue to lead the way.

The Sunrise Movement is a multi-race grassroots movement of young people (ages 13 to 35) who have been training leaders and organizing locally and globally since 2017. Sunrise has been a central force in developing and lobbying for a Green New Deal. In the 2018 national election, the Sunrise Movement endorsed 30 candidates. Nineteen of them were elected. The Sunrise Movement advocated for a Democratic debate on climate change; their actions resulted in a town hall with the leading candidates.  They recently endorsed their first congressional candidate for 2020, Audrey Denny, who is running against Representative Doug La Malfa in the First Congressional District.  The Sunrise Movement website says, “We are not looking to the right or left.  We look forward. Together we will change this country and this world, sure as the sun rises each morning.”

The Last Chance Alliance is a California climate justice alliance that includes hundreds of organizations. Many of its leaders are young people whose communities are being negatively impacted by fossil fuel extraction, transport, and processing. They are calling on Governor Newsom to stop issuing oil and gas permits altogether and to institute 2500 foot-setbacks from oil and gas wells for schools and residential areas. In September 2018, “Brown’s Last Chance” demonstrations outside the Global Action Climate Summit in San Francisco focused on the same goals. These demonstrations included cooperation between indigenous people from as far away as the Amazon and young people from impacted communities, including those who live in Richmond near the Chevron refinery and in Kern County near fracking operations. They call on California’s governor and legislators to abandon false solutions and to work toward an immediate, just, and effective transition away from fossil fuels.

Extinction Rebellion Youth is a “network for everyone born after 1990.” It is aligned with the larger Extinction Rebellion Movement. “We are a generation that has never known a stable climate and that will be defined by how the world responds to the climate and ecological crisis.” They call for nonviolent direct action to amplify the voices of people calling for structural change in order to persuade governments to take strong action on climate change.

The Global Climate Strike, scheduled for September 20-27 2019, is an outgrowth of Fridays for Future, a global youth movement that was started by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.  Greta started going on strike from school every Friday to highlight the climate emergency.  She asks, “Why study for a future that may not be there?” Friday for Future strikes have caught on; varied actions have taken place in countries around the world. Now Greta and other climate strikers are calling for people of all ages to show support for them by participating in a Global Climate Strike. People have responded by organizing strikes, demonstrations, and other actions in 150 countries. It is expected to be the largest global climate action ever.

Young people around the world are rising to the challenges posed by climate change.  They are:

  • Educating themselves and others, acting to build resilient communities, and reaching out to those who are suffering first and worst from climate change
  • Filing court cases claiming their fundamental right to a stable climate
  • Calling on institutions to divest from fossil fuels
  • Advocating for a Green New Deal
  • Engaging in solidarity actions with young people in indigenous and other vulnerable communities
  • Calling on leaders to make systemic changes in order to create climate solutions that will really work.

Our action or our inaction will impact not only today’s children and youth, but generations into the distant future. What are we willing to do to offer our youth a hopeful future through our actions?  How well are we backing them up?

Websites Related to Youth Actions for the Climate:

Our Children’s Trust, with Juliana vs. The United States: https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/. This website also includes the 60 Minutes program: The Climate Change Lawsuit that Could Stop the US Government from Supporting Fossil Fuels.

The Sunrise Movement:  https://www.sunrisemovement.org/

“Sunrise Movement, the Force Behind the Green New Deal, Ramps Up Plans for 2020,” in Rolling Stone:  https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/sunrise-movement-green-new-deal-2020-828766/

Go Fossil Free, an overview of colleges and universities that have ongoing campaigns or have divested:  https://campaigns.gofossilfree.org/efforts/fossil-fuel-divestment-colleges-universities.

Institutions divested from fossil fuels: https://gofossilfree.org/divestment/commitments/

College and University campaigns: campaigns.gofossilfree.org/efforts/fossil-fuel-divestment-colleges-universities.  Over $11 trillion divested: https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/09/09/people-power-winning-fossil-fuel-divestment-movement-celebrates-11-trillion

Last Chance Alliance: https://lastchancealliance.org/

Read the stories of impacted communities:  https://lastchancealliance.org/stories/

Extinction Rebellion Youth: https://www.xryouth.org/about

Global Climate Strike: https://globalclimatestrike.net/

Fridays for Future: https://www.fridaysforfuture.org/

Naomi Klein interviews Greta Thunberg, with presentations by other youth, including plaintiffs in the lawsuit:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vw58ckJdDmI&fbclid=IwAR2f-9I9p7R2pNI477YnXXaocKI-Tn1WbIMnSYXYSeBCS0JD6Ea3zyDCv9s

“A Message from the Future” video, with Alexandria Octavio Cortez: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=a+future%2c+AOC&&view=detail&mid=65A1D4302730C5C9935B65A1D4302730C5C9935B&&FORM=VDRVRV

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Other blog postings about climate change can be found here.  

Global Climate Strike

Progressive Christian Social Action

Global Climate Strike

In a recent article, climate leader Bill McKibben challenged adults to offer support to children and youth who face accelerating climate change by joining in upcoming Global Climate Strike actions. He asked, “On what kind of world do we expect 15-year-olds to tackle our biggest problems by themselves?”

Those of us who care, including people of faith, need to offer our support to young people who are calling for bold action on climate change. Around the world, young people are rising to this challenge with passion and dedication that elude most of us who are older and more immersed in what we consider realistic within the current social and political state of affairs. As climate-related disasters become more common, young people are exposed to the impacts and dangers of climate change. They also face other related social and environmental challenges. Few young people have the means to invest in electric cars or solar panels; many do not have the political power that comes with the vote. They know that they have not caused climate change, but that it will impact them and their descendants into the future. For these reasons, they call not only for lifestyle change but for climate justice, which will entail broad social and political change.

The Global Climate Strike, scheduled for the week of September 20 through 27, is an outgrowth of Fridays for Future, a global youth movement that was started by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. Greta started going on strike from school every Friday to highlight the climate crisis.   She asks, “Why study for a future that may not be there?” Friday for Future strikes have caught on; varied actions have taken place in countries around the world. Now Greta and other climate strikers are calling for people of all ages to show support by participating in a Global Climate Strike. People have responded by organizing strikes, demonstrations, and other actions in over 150 countries. It is expected to be the largest coordinated global climate action ever. Over 500 actions are scheduled in the United States alone. To find an action near you, go to https://strikewithus.org/ or https://globalclimatestrike.net/.

According to globalclimatestrike.net, “Our only hope of achieving the sweeping transformation we need to save our futures is with the power of a mass movement.” Fortunately, the climate justice movement continues to grow and gain momentum, illustrated by the words on a banner at a climate march, “The seas are rising and so are we.”

The Global Climate Strike is one example of young people acting to secure their future by highlighting the fact that we are in a climate emergency. But this can’t be their task alone. They are asking for us to join them in these actions.  They are asking for our help. “Elders need to act like elders,” said Bill McKibben.  “If a kid says help, you help.”

In a speech at the 2019 World Economic Forum, Greta Thunberg said, “Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope… I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act, I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house was on fire, because it is.” In a TED talk, Greta later clarified: “Yes, we do need hope—of course, we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then, and only then, hope will come.”

In this time of great suffering and danger, when many feel disheartened and powerlessness, Greta urges us to take action.  In the words of Joan Baez, “Action is the antidote for despair.”

 

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Sharon’s other blog postings about climate change can be found here.