Today members of Portland Rising Tide and participants in a training for Power Shift 2011 set out to let major banks in Portland know it’s time to pull investments from dirty fossil fuel infrastructure. About fifty people visited local branches of Wells Fargo and Bank of America, letting customers know the banks have been “Closed for climate crimes.” While some participants staged a die-in on the sidewalks, others used mud to stick “dirty money” to the walls and windows. The group drew interested looks from people on the sidewalks and bank customers using the ATMs, and activists were happy to fill in passers-by on how these banks came to deserve their dirty reputations.
A good time was had by all, and it was great to see so much energy channeled into shining a light on the companies financing some of the world’s most destructive fossil fuel infrastructure. Yet while actions like this are designed to be both educational and fun, there’s nothing amusing about funding activities that destroy the very livability of the planet. When Bank of America and Wells Fargo customers arrive tomorrow at the branches targeted by today’s action, they’ll learn about the dirty dealings with fossil fuel companies these Wall Street players ordinarily try to cover up.
Big banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America are financing coal and other fossil fuel projects throughout that poison communities and destabilize the climate. Here in the Pacific Northwest perhaps their worst climate crime is giving capital to companies like Arch Coal that want to transform the region into a major coal export zone. Proposals to massively expand coal exports in the Washington communities of Longview and Cherry Point would expose people nearby to toxic coal dust from trains – thus the victims of fatal coal poisoning who appeared on the sidewalks outside Wells Fargo and Bank of America today. Meanwhile coal exported to markets in China and India would contribute to climate change and undo much of the great work the Northwest has done to reduce carbon emissions here at home.
Customers who arrive tomorrow at the Wells Fargo and Bank of America branches which were the focus of today’s action will find these banks’ dirty activities laid out in the open at last. Both banks have always dealt in dirty financing, but unsurprisingly aren’t keen to brag about it to the people who supply their money. As people across the country wake up to Wall Street’s role in financing dirty coal, it will be harder for banks to keep their activities behind closed doors. If you have an account with Wells Fargo of Bank of America, you can help. Contact your bank and let them know their customers don’t support lending dirty money to fossil fuels.