15 December 2008

Putting your money where your mouth is

That's what I did today. Finally. After thinking about it for the past eight years.

Have known for some time that the big banks care little about ethical investing. Their bottom line is always profit. If the tar sands make profit, for example, then the banks will invest their - or rather, their customers' - money in the tar sands.

As customers, we've no choice in the matter. Other than to take our money elsewhere.

Which is what I did today.

My hesitation had been due to wanting some stability in my life, something which was familiar and hadn't changed. Everything else these past eight years has been unstable, and I've lived with the constant stress of pinching pennies, trying to make sure that each month there'll be enough to pay the rent and hydro, and provide food for Kiltie, Brodie and I.

As happened before, I read an article, this one a couple of weeks ago, about the banks and their investment dollars. The difference was that this time, I was ready to act.

As the international community wrapped up the first week of post-Kyoto treaty negotiations in Poland, cities around the world held rallies calling for action on climate change.

In Vancouver today, volunteers and organizers focused on the role big banks have in funding the tar sands.

Last month, the San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network (which spearheaded the event) published a report analyzing the greenhouse gas emissions of Canada’s five biggest banks, based on their financing of fossil fuel projects.

According to the report, last year Royal Bank, TD Bank, BMO, Scotiabank and CIBC provided a total of $155 billion in direct corporate loans and financing to coal, oil and gas industries.

"[Banks] play a massive role in Canada's future as a contributor to global warming rather than a country that's helping solve the problem," said organizer Graham Girard.

"The main things we're trying to do today is just raise awareness."

On hand were several laptops, on which people could check out a website that calculates exactly how much a savings account at one of the big five banks might contribute to one's carbon footprint.

VanCity and Desjardins were examples of two "low-carbon" financial institutions.

I'd been with the same bank for 30 years. I closed my account with them today.

My new chequing account is at Island Savings Credit Union, which has branches throughout Vancouver Island. Was a hard decision to make, but once done there are no regrets.

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