4- Divest from ecocide

By Hayley

The UN has warned that we have twelve years to limit the catastrophic impacts of climate change, and climate change isn’t the only threat.  We are also facing massive species die offs, the oceans are becoming too acidic to support life, and ecological harm is being caused by everything from concrete to deforestation to unsustainable farming practices.

Capitalism has us locked in a death march, with our collective labor being steered towards making the planet uninhabitable.  Individual lifestyle changes are important, but they simply aren’t enough to reverse the direction we’re going in, and time is running out. It is time to get brave, get public, and to start working for massive changes in the way we do things. A mere 100 companies are responsible for 71% of carbon emissions. It is time to re-imagine our financial landscape so that it becomes impossible for these mega-polluters to exist.  It’s time for a nationwide divestment movement!

A key factor fueling ecological destruction is that people are getting paid to do it. The equation is simple: Cut the funds, cut the destruction.

A 2018 report by Rain Forest Action Network shows how top banks are dumping obscene amounts of money into planet-killing activities. Wells Fargo, for instance, invested more than $4.6 billion in fossil fuels between 2015 and 2017. In response, cities like Seattle and Davis have pulled all city funds from Wells Fargo, and a number of groups have also been demonstrating in front of Wells Fargo to draw attention to its role in funding ecological destruction.

At this point, all of the major banks are putting money into ecocide, which is why it’s vital to make sure you aren’t banking with any of them. Close your account today! But also, if you have a 401k, that money might be invested without your knowledge in climate-killing funds, and likewise, your city, school, or workplace might have it’s money caught up in ecological destruction.

Recently, an online tool was developed to help you figure out if you have money accidentally invested in fossil fuels. Here’s the link: fossilfreefunds.org  Try it now!  Seriously, check your own funds, your workplace’s, and your city’s.  It’s time to get all funds out of ecological destruction.

Divestment is a huge step in taking away the power of the planet-killing industries. But this needs to go beyond a boycott. We need an alternative system.

That’s why we also need to break up the mega banks, and replace them with publicly-owned banks. In 2018, Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a bill that would break up any bank with total exposure greater than 3% of the US Economy.  While this bill didn’t pass, it’s a great vision in terms of setting our sights on the next steps. But breaking up mega-banks is just the start. We also need public banks — banks that are owned and controlled by the people rather than corporate shareholders.

In North Dakota, there has been a public bank since 1919, showing us that it’s possible to have a bank owned by the people. The Bank of North Dakota earns a profit for the state, generating public funds that contribute to education, disaster relief, and infrastructure projects. While BND isn’t divested from climate chaos, it at least shows us that it’s possible to create a successful public bank.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, public banking activists have been laying the groundwork to create the East Bay Public Bank, a publicly-owned bank with the explicit mission to never invest in ecocide.  Currently, a new law, AB857, is being drafted in the California Legislature that will set things in place for public banking in California.

Simply having publicly-owned banks isn’t enough: we also have to make sure there is a clear mission to never invest in ecological destruction. Credit Unions can also be a good option to do your banking, as long as they are divested from ecocide.

We have just a few years left to course-correct our society so that the global change in temperature will be 1.5°C instead of much worse, and we’ve already killed off 60% of the planet’s species since 1970. Working to prevent ecological collapse means rethinking our society at every level, and building better ways to bank is a part of the solution. We need to think fast and act smart. Cut off the funds that fuel ecocide and de-pave the way for the planet’s ecological future.

You can learn more about the Bay Area project to create the nation’s first eco-friendly public bank at publicbankeastbay.org.