Senior Climate Activists Protest ‘Dirty Banks’ Financing of Fossil Fuel Projects

Excerpts of speeches by Ebony Martin, co-executive director of Greenpeace USA and Rose Abramoff of Scientist Rebellion, recorded and produced by Melinda Tuhus

On March 21st, protests targeting the nation’s four largest banks took place in more than 100 cities across the U.S. Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo and Bank of America finance fossil fuel projects which are a major contributor to climate chaos. The national protest was organized by Third Act, a new organization founded by writer and climate activist Bill McKibben, invites people over age 60 to take action on safeguarding democracy and confronting the climate crisis.

The action in Washington, D.C., included a 24-hour rocking chair vigil in front of four neighboring bank branches, two short marches, a rally and the nonviolent civil disobedience blockade of Chase and Wells Fargo banks. Hundreds took part in a symbolic “die-in” in the intersection between the banks. The rally featured Third Act founder Bill McKibben, former executive director of the NAACP, and new head of the Sierra Club Ben Jealous and other speakers, as well as skits and music.

Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus participated in the action and was arrested the following day with nine others as they conducted a sit-in inside the Chase bank. There they condemned the bank’s investments in fossil fuel projects, citing the just-released dire report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We hear from two speakers at the rally, earth scientist Rose Abramoff with the group Scientist Rebellion, followed by Greenpeace USA Co-Executive Director of Ebony Martin.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The audio version of this interview has been edited to fit broadcast time constraints.]

ROSE ABRAMOFF: I’m an activist but I’m also a scientist, and as previously alluded, I was fired earlier this year for holding up a banner at an earth science conference with my colleague, Peter Kalmas, another earth scientist. The banner said, “Out of the lab and into the streets.” We held that banner for about 30 seconds and for that I was fired. [audience boo]. Thank you. I’m telling this story, though, to explain why more of us scientists aren’t out here on the streets with you.

It’s because we are by and large compelled, by our institutions, to remain “neutral,” even in the face of environmental devastation, and for more than 40 years, most of us have complied. So, on behalf of the scientific community, I apologize for our cowardice.

I was inspired to become a scientist by my elders, and in fact Bill McKibben, who’s here today, actually came to my college campus center when I was an undergraduate, then as a representative of, 350 referring to the goal of bringing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere down below 350 ppm. That year, 2009, it was 288 ppm, and now we are at 420 ppm and rising.

So, in the 14 years since then I’ve learned what is basically summarized by the IPCC  report released yesterday, which is that climate change is an existential threat to humanity. In the next 10-year period, we expect to exceed the Paris agreement goal of  1.5 degrees Celsius of warming at which point several tipping points become more likely than not: widespread death of corals, abrupt melting of permafrost, collapse of the Greenland and West Antarctica ice sheets. More likely than not. These things are already possible and partly underway, because we have been asleep in the danger zone for years. Why? To me it seems crazy that we as a society have chosen to optimize infinite economic growth, which is a concept that is fundamentally incompatible with sustainable resource use. [applause] Yes, thanks. Obviously. This is scientific fact, I believe.

We measure our wealth using an index that shows how much we produce, throw away, and produce again, as opposed to how much we have, or have what we need to survive. And there are so many people in this country and in countries that we have economically colonized that don’t have what they need to survive and are already suffering from the worst effects of climate change.

And so, two options await us in the immediate future: climate crisis or climate revolution. I hope today you take this as an opportunity to prepare each other for sustained action. Let’s choose revolution!

Thank you. Also, we need more rocking chair people, so if you want to join a rocking chair rebellion, please help us after the rally in this corner where we will prepare for that. Okay [laughs], end of announcement.

ANNOUNCER: Greenpeace could have no better leader than the new executive director of Greenpeace, Ebony Martin.

EBONY MARTIN: We ready to start a revolution??!! Okay, listen, listen. $4.62 trillion. That is how much the banks have invested in the fossil fuel industry since the Paris agreement. This is the same industry that knew that oil and gas has caused this climate crisis. This is the same industry that knew people would suffer, especially Black and brown communities. This is the same industry that knew that our planet would be devastated by continued extraction and production. This is the same industry that hid the science. They lied to us and blocked solutions for clean and renewable energy. This is the same industry that’s linked to 8.5 million deaths globally in 2018 alone, and that doesn’t even begin to quantify the catastrophic impacts we face every day, year after year. We have 100-year floods now occurring every five years. Our air is polluted. Our skies are red, from fires. We are being burned out of our houses.Our communities are being flooded. Our aunties have cancer. Our babies have asthma and this is all from the fossil fuel industry that the banks continue to fund. Well, we are here today to say Not on our watch! Say it with me: Not on our watch!

Where that can $4.26 trillion go? We want that back in our health care system, so people can have access! We want that money back into our education systems, so our children can thrive! We want that money invested back in Black and brown and working class communities, so they can have the livelihood and health that they deserve!

For more information on Third Act, visit

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