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My name is Sof Petros and I am a youth climate organizer. Now, at 24, I have the words to describe the things I saw growing up but couldn’t name—we live in a world where profit comes before people and the environment. That is why I’ve joined the growing movement of young people who are calling on big corporations and financial institutions to take accountability for their role in advancing the climate crisis.
By going after the banks that are financing fossil fuel extraction, we’re cutting off the money pipeline that is the fossil fuel industry’s only hope of survival in a world that is eager to transition to clean energy.
The pollution from coal, oil, and gas extraction is heating our planet and increasing the severity of natural disasters. Environmental racism and injustice means these impacts are felt first and worst by communities of color, indigenous peoples, and those living with disabilities. Fossil fuel executives and politicians have known this for decades. Yet the fossil fuel industry continues to expand: building and installing massive new oil pipelines like Line 3 and Trans Mountain and facilities like the Tacoma LNG project. In ‘progressive Seattle’, we continue to install new homes and buildings with fossil fuel heating, even when perfectly good alternatives are available and dozens of cities across the country have outlawed this practice.
People across the world have been experiencing the negative impacts of the climate crisis for years but this summer the climate crisis hit in new and real ways for people in the Northwest. A New York Times analysis suggests that there were an excess of at least 600 deaths in Washington and Oregon states as a result of the record breaking heat dome this past summer. More than a billion marine animals died across the Pacific coast, the state’s glaciers melted at record pace, crops were destroyed, infrastructure buckled, wildfires sparked and raged for weeks. This devastating heat wave was made 150 times more likely by human-caused climate change.
Fossil fuel companies, like any other business, cannot operate without financial support. They need a bank account, insurance, loans, and investors. Without these resources, massive projects like oil pipelines and coal mines wouldn’t have the cash to get off the ground. Fossil fuel companies are dependent on finance. The world’s megabanks have lent the industry more than $3 trillion since 2016, when the Paris Climate Accord was signed. The top four U.S. banks alone—JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo—have loaned the oil and gas industry more than a quarter trillion dollars in the past five years.
Why are young people going after financial institutions? Because we know that if we can stop the flow of money, we can stop the flow of oil.
By going after the banks that are financing fossil fuel extraction, we’re cutting off the money pipeline that is the fossil fuel industry’s only hope of survival in a world that is eager to transition to clean energy. We’ve seen the results of purely moral and pragmatic appeals: Fires burn down homes, hurricanes destroy coastal communities, heatwaves kill our grandparents, tsunamis take human life. And yet, the money from banks keeps flowing and our government does little to intervene. At this stage, every penny to polluters is locking us into deadlier heat waves, hotter fires, and higher floodwaters and it’s our communities that pay the price.
Our movement aims to create severe reputational, political, and economic costs to banks and insurers that continue to enable the fossil fuel industry. The executive director of the International Energy Agency, which recently authored a report on achieving net-zero by 2050, told the Guardian in May, ”If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas, and coal, from now—from this year.” There are no excuses.
That’s why on October 29, we need you to join us in bringing our demands to these financial institutions and local politicians in Seattle. The money that fuels the fossil fuel industry ends here.
Youth are exposing finance executives for recklessly choosing to back dirty energy and human rights abuses when a liveable planet requires ending fossil fuel expansion this year. It doesn’t have to be this way. Money can and must flow into communities to finance a transition to renewable energy and good jobs. We need to invest in people and the planet, not further destruction.
Banks and insurers have the money, but people have the power. Youth movements win change and define history, but we need a bold, loving, intergenerational and intersectional movement in order to win. We need people of all ages to come together to call for a Fossil Free Future!
If you’re in Seattle, I hope you can join us on Friday October 29th at 11am at Pier 62.
We will march to JPMorgan Chase’s PNW HQ where we will build a climate memorial, stage a die-in to commemorate all that has been lost to the climate crisis and demand that Chase stops funding fossil fuels.
At Liberty Mutual’s regional HQ, we will take action to call out their insuring of Trans Mountain and other toxic fossil fuel projects.
At Seattle City Hall we will have art, music and speakers and we will demand that the City Council pass the Solidarity Budget, which is how the City Council can put climate justice into action, and immediately stops building new homes with fossil fuel heating.
Bring a friend or two and together we can begin to move closer to the world we all deserve.