Climate activism and the fossil fuel industry’s financial crisis

For the past seven years climate activists have used every technique we could think of to stop fossil fuel mining and infrastructure construction.

We got another one. On Monday evening, Bank of America said that it will no longer finance fossil fuel exploration in the Arctic, joining Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Chase, Wells Fargo, and CitiBank, which all announced similar policies this year. That means no major U.S. bank will fund oil and gas production in the region anymore.

The news follows years of public pressure from climate organizers for companies to stop enabling Arctic drilling. The movement heated up since last fall when a coalition launched Stop the Money Pipeline, a campaign to call out Wall Street firms’ role in particular.

Bank of America’s decision came at a crucial moment. Just two weeks ago, the Bureau of Land Management announced plans to issue a request for nominations on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s pristine 1.6 million acre coastal plain, letting energy companies suggest which pieces of the protected land should be auctioned off for extraction. This will be a big step toward solidifying leases before the end of Trump’s presidency. But those leases represent a major threat to threatened wildlife in the area, as well as local Indigenous people such as the Gwich’in Nation who have been instrumental in getting banks to turn against drilling. Financial firms’ ban on funding drilling there also shows that for oil companies, they may not be a worthwhile investment.


I was really discouraged with the recent announcement that the current administration was opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for fossil fuel exploration. What a paradox to desecrate land identified as a refuge! So I am so thankful to read the news that funding is drying up for fossil fuel projects, and the ongoing delays as a result of climate activism are extremely costly for existing projects.

It’s unlikely Bank of America is doing this for purely altruistic reasons. Amid the covid-19 pandemic, oil and gas prices have fallen to historic lows, meaning banks aren’t expecting big returns on oil and gas. Climate organizers have also made it clear that they’ll give any energy company and any banks who finance them hell if they choose to buy coastal plain leases, which is a huge hassle. But whatever its reasons, Bank of America’s announcement is a good thing for the Arctic and for the climate.


The rapid expansion of renewable energy sources, with electricity prices from renewables becoming the least expensive source of energy meant it was only a matter of time before the demise of fossil fuels.

And years of climate activism have been a significant source of trouble for the fossil fuel industry. Often, intentionally, climate resistance was never reported. Although that also has been changing lately as multiple environmental disasters have forced the general public to become aware of the causes of environmental chaos.

Perhaps this is an occasion to describe some of the climate resistance my friends and I have been involved with.

1972 When I moved to Indianapolis I couldn’t believe the amount of smog. I couldn’t be part of that, and lived without a car since then. Tragically and unsurprisingly, recent studies have shown if we had chosen mass transportation instead of personal automobiles, we might have remained within safe ecological boundaries.

2013 The Rainforest Action Network trained about 400 activist to design and carry out acts of civil disobedience if the Obama administration was going to approve the Keystone XL pipeline permit to cross the US-Canada border. Although President Obama denied the permit, the current administration approved it.

2014 It was in 2014 I first became involved with the Kheprw Institute, originally called the KI Eco Center. The youth mentoring and empowerment community taught the young people how to make rain barrels and maintain an aquaponics system.

11/19/2015 In cities across the country, coordinated actions occurred as activists went to Morgan Stanley offices to deliver petitions asking the company to stop funding fossil fuel projects. At the shareholders meeting several days later, a decision was made to stop funding.


2016 – Present For the past four years the focus of climate activism has been trying to stop the construction and operation of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL).

In Indianapolis we had numerous gatherings related to DAPL. These were my first experiences with Native Americans joining us. Sometimes we gathered at the downtown Circle. Other times at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art which was also downtown. One of the most powerful occasions was when we gathered in a circle on the State Capitol grounds for prayer.

DIVESTMENT One of our efforts was to encourage people and organizations to divest their accounts in banks that funded fossil fuel projects. North Meadow Circle of Friends closed their Chase bank account.

One day in Indianapolis we marched from the Eiteljorg museum to two of the banks funding DAPL, Chase and PNC. We stood outside each bank in silence, with our signs, as people with accounts went into the bank to close their accounts. $110,000 was withdrawn that day.

I hadn’t setup my accounts at a different bank at that time. But I did so, and shortly thereafter had my own experiences at the downtown Chase bank, where I closed my account. I returned to the bank for follow up with the bank officer who helped me close my account. Defunding Experience | Quakers, social justice and revolution (

In 2017, I retired and moved to Iowa. I began to rebuild a network of activists to work with. February, 2018, a group of some of my new friends and I went to Minneapolis the weekend the Super Bowl was played there. USBank has its headquarter in Minneapolis, and the Super Bowl was going to be played in the USBank stadium. USBank funds DAPL. We had a good rally there. It was beautiful as snow fell on us.

First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, September 1-8, 2018 Joining the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March was one of the most profound experiences in my life so far. The March involved walking and camping together along the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) from September 1-8, 2018. We walked from Des Moines to Fort Dodge, Iowa, a distance of 94 miles. Someone called this a Sacred Journey.

As the name suggests, the idea was for this small group of people, around a dozen native, and a dozen nonnative people, to get to know each other so we could begin to build trust with each other. And so we could work on things of common concern.  We formed a circle and held hands as prayers were given, every time we walked over the pipeline. The main message of the March was to call attention to the abuse of eminent domain to force landowners to allow construction of the pipeline on their land. Although oil was flowing through the pipeline, we hoped the landowner’s case in the Iowa Supreme Court would result in the pipeline being closed. As you might suspect, we lost the case.

This website is full of photographs, videos and stories related to the March. First Nation-Farmer Unity – First Nation peoples and farmers working together

The community we built during the March began to work together, develop more trust each time. One of the first things we did, for example, was meet with Senator Grassley’s Des Moines staff about some legislation affecting Native Americans.

Meeting with Senator Grassley’s staff in 2018

Earlier this year my friend Ed Fallon and others organized a Climate Crisis Parade in downtown Des Moines. Many of us from the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March were there. It is estimated that nearly 1,000 people participated.

In February a few of us held a vigil in Des Moines in support of the Wet’suwet’en people in British Columbia, who are trying to prevent the construction of a pipeline through their pristine lands. That was a very fortuitous event, because Ronnie James attended, who has become a good friend since. Ronnie is involved with the Great Plains Action Society, as are several other friends from the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. Ronnie has also been teaching me about Mutual Aid, which has been the focus of my work lately.

This entry was posted in #NDAPL, climate change, decolonize, First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, Green New Deal, Indigenous, Keystone Pledge of Resistance, Keystone XL pipeline (KXL), Native Americans, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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