And so we buy local. We buy organic and sustainably produced products and food. We support fair trade and patronize environmentally minded companies. Whenever we spend money we do so if at all possible in a way that reinforces our values and ideals.
But what was that money supporting before it was spent?
If it was saved in an account at a major bank like Bank of America, Citigroup or JP Morgan Chase, then it may well have been used to finance environmentally destructive projects like construction of new coal fired power plants or mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining.
You do not have to be a millionaire to make a difference. Through the policy of fractional reserve lending a bank can lend out ten times the amount of money it holds in reserve. This means that even the smallest accounts alone can be leveraged to finance relatively large ventures.
Nineteen year old Californian Kyle Thiermann produced a short video on this issue called “Claim Your Change.” Consider the possible impact of collective action. “So far just from the video coming out,” he said in an interview in September, “I’ve documented $400,000 dollars coming out of centralized banks like B of A and into community banks – which is $4,000,000 worth of lending power for the bank.” Since then documented withdrawals have grown to over $800,000. Not bad for a teenage surfer.
Average people acting together can influence lending policies to help forge a greener future by simply shifting their accounts to more environmentally friendly companies like Deutsche Bank. Locally based banks and credit unions may also be wise options to avoid supporting environmentally destructive ends. They also tend to invest in their own communities making them all the more attractive alternatives. Switching banks is a positive action that takes little effort. Not only does it have the potential to lessen lending power, but it also provides moral satisfaction when one’s money is not supporting an irresponsible financier.
Originally published online at Hippie Magazine.