An Unforgivable Sin of Neglect
Get ready for a devastating report. As a consequence of the climate crisis, “we cannot rule out catastrophic outcomes where human life as we know it is threatened,” it reads.
If we fail to act with urgency, it adds, carbon emissions in the upcoming decades “will continue to affect the climate for centuries to come in a way that is likely to be irreversible.”
“The earth is on an unsustainable trajectory. Something will have to change at some point if the human race is to survive,” it concludes.
Who’s behind this report? Climatologists, the UN, Greta Thunberg? Nope, it’s JPMorgan Chase, the world’s largest investor of fossil fuel projects, who, finally, is opening its eyes to the climate threat we all face.
“The biggest challenge right now is that money is holding the power,” says Vivianna Plancarte, a junior at Pomona College, California, and a Latina activist in the fossil fuel divestment movement. “The money is too concentrated. And those with the power and money tend to disregard the rest of the world.”
Plancarte and hundreds of fellow students are pressuring their schools to drop their investments in oil, coal and fracked gas.
“We have been educating the student body, holding teach-ins, conferences, town halls, so people can talk and be informed about the divestment movement,” says Bridget de la Torre, another student leader from Boston University.
For decades, the fossil fuel industry has ignored and snubbed the pleas from the scientific and environmental communities to make it understand that its business model entails the destruction of the planet’s atmosphere. There was only one option left: try and cut the flow of money to this industry. The results have been spectacular.
JPMorgan Chase itself, America’s largest bank, last month announced that it will not fund oil extraction in the Arctic and that it will abandon coal projects, such as mining and power plants. It also informed that it will invest $200 billion in climate action projects, as well as housing, education and healthcare.
“I got involved in activism because by preventing climate change I am making an impact back home,” says Plancarte, originally from El Centro, California, a rural, overwhelmingly Latino community that is disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis. “Reducing climate change benefits everybody and that’s something I’m very passionate about. I want everybody to have their basic human rights met.”
This social pressure keeps scoring victories. In the last three months, responding to calls from the Gwich’in Nation, half of the US six largest banks — Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase itself — have announced that they will refuse to finance oil extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Furthermore, as part of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day celebrations, the international youth climate strike movement will hold a day of action on April 23rd to stop the money pipeline, targeting the big banks that finance dirty fossil fuel infrastructure.
“I want to solve this problem,” says de la Torre. “So that’s what I am going to dedicate my career to, and I’ve found out that this activism makes me feel more comfortable with myself and become more outspoken.”
“When you see other people similar to you working for the same goal, you feel more empowered, you feel that you can overcome adversity and this allows us to make a very powerful political statement,” concludes Plancarte.
They and so many other young people around the world are teaching us history’s most relevant generational lesson. It would be an unforgivable sin to ignore this plea for the future of humanity.
Javier Sierra is a Columnist with Sierra Club. @javier_SC
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