Monday, March 10, 2014

Divestment



A few weeks ago I tweeted this slightly cryptic tweet about my newest action on climate change. And over the weekend, I finally finished the process (it was not a hard one) and I'm super excited to share it with you. I know some of you care not for my climate change posts. But, this is too important for me to care whether or not this is something my readers enjoy hearing about. Sorry! I'm going to preface this, like I preface all my climate change writing. You have a right to your opinion about climate change, but I'm not going to debate it. It's happening.

I'm pretty conscientious when it comes to my footprint. I try to be as energy efficient as I can be - turning things off at the power points, turning lights off, etc. - I try to buy locally grown food, non-toxic cleaning products, reuse as much as I can, don't buy more than I can use or need, blah blah blah.

I know that when I spend a dollar I should think about where that dollar is going and that spending that money elsewhere is making a (small, sure) statement about my beliefs. That doesn't mean I always make the right decision, but I'm aware of it.

About eight months ago, Bill McKibben did a speaking tour in Australia. He is the face of the climate action group 350.org. He spoke about what the money that we have sitting in the bank or the loan that we have to buy our house or car is invested in. I think I, naively, thought that banks just loan money to people buying houses. It never really occurred to me that banks loan billions of dollars to fossil fuel projects. McKibben spoke about divesting, about taking our money from banks who are loaning money to destroy our future and instead investing that money with banks who are investing in a safe future.

I was a Westpac costumer - Westpac is one of the big four banks in Australia. It currently is investing in the Abbott Point coal terminal which will be the end for the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It invests in Hazelwood power station - a coal mine that has been on fire for more than a month causing health problems to families who live in houses which are a mere 500 metres away from the mine. Hazelwood is also one of the most polluting power stations in the world.

I switched banks. Inspector Climate and I don't have a huge amount of money. But we are saving to buy a house someday, so we do have money in the bank. The banks like us because they know if we're saving to buy a house than we're planning on having a mortgage some day. And mortgages are a big deal. But even if we only had $500 in the bank, switching is a pretty powerful statement: "We don't support what you invest in, we're moving to someone who shares our vision."

We switched to Bank MECU - a costumer owned bank. People seem worried about the interest rates - they're the same. The fees are the same, the only difference is that there are a few less ATMs. Bank MECU invests in socially responsible companies. They do not invest in fossil fuels. I dig that.

On Saturday, I joined 350.org Australia and about 15 other people and we walked into Westpac and closed our accounts. It's only the start of the movement here. It will grow. And frankly, I feel a giant sense of relief knowing that I'm investing in solving the problem, not creating a bigger one.

Even though I've worked in the climate change "industry" (can it be called that?) exclusively. Even though I've raised money, built movements of people, and lobbied the government with people power and a chorus of voices. Switching banks might be the most effective thing I've done to mitigate climate change.

I'd ask you to think about it. Yes, it will take a bit of time and paperwork (like maybe 2 hours), but I think it's worth it. And if you decide it's not, that's cool - maybe instead just ask your bank what they're investing in. Do a bit of research and ask them why. Questions are powerful.

10 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting about this... I care about my footprint too and try to do what I can to make a difference - conserving water and electricity, buying local, avoiding chemical cleaners etc.

    I am also a Westpac customer and I didn't know about their investment in environmentally damaging projects. I'd always thought they were a pretty good corporate citizen, but it seems the environment is not a high priority for them.

    I'm going to give serious consideration to switching.

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    1. They're the best of the big four - but that doesn't say much really. email me if you'd like to chat! I think there is going to be a big day of divestment action on 3 May - so there is a lot of information around right now and also if you decide to do it, it's a great day to make a stand :)

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  2. Thanks for giving us something to chew on--and for doing your part to be the change you wish to see in the world

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  3. Deidre....
    Good for you to make a physical, emotional and mental stand for your convictions!! ;)
    --Raelyn

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  4. I'm saving this to read again later, you've given me some really great info to think about.

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  5. Interesting. Something I've never put much thought into. But I'm glad it makes you feel good about yourself and how you are helping.

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  6. AWESOME! You know, I never even thought of this. I did recently switch from a big bank to a credit union, but I guess I should make sure that they are CC friendly!

    Through my job, I am participating in the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (zoo and aquariums throughout the US can apply). I definitely think of you when I am doing my work for the study groups!

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  7. yes. planted a seed in my brain and now I have to think....

    Xo Lourdes

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  8. This is a great article, I would never ever think about how the bank I choose to go with affects the environment. Unfortunately how mortgage is a little tricky and we are definitely stuck with Westpac for a little longer but I will keep this in mind when we are in a position to re-evaluate.

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  9. Now I'm going to have to do some research. I only use credit unions state-side although I have no idea if they operate differently from banks as far as investments go. But I also have a European bank account and I honestly don't know how that works. We were told there was only one bank who would give us an account as foreigners so that's where we went. Thanks! I will be looking into this.

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