Asheville Rising Tide Confronts Bank of America for Investments in Coal Industry

Today dozens of cyclists paid a surprise visit to Bank of America to protest their financial backing of coal companies as a part of the International Day of Action Against Climate Change and G8 (read the worldwide roundup of actions here). After tying up downtown traffic, the 30-strong bike ride descended on the downtown Asheville headquarters of Bank of America. Once there, a number of people dumped coal in front of the main entrance, while another person spontaneously sacrificed their bike lock and locked the front doors shut.

With police still not in sight, the bike ride continued on to another Bank of America branch, where participants plastered the bank in stickers, handed out flyers to customers, and held banners reading, “Stop Banking on Climate Change” and “Climate Chaos: Brought to you by Bank of America.”

The protest was held in solidarity with the massive anti-G8 protests in Germany, where leaders of the 8 richest countries continue to drag their feet on making any meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The bike ride was organized by Asheville Rising Tide, a group dedicated to confronting the root causes of climate change.

Bank of America plays a major role in perpetuating climate change by its massive investments in the coal industry. Pound for pound, burning coal releases more C02 emissions then any other fossil fuel. Bank of America has facilitated nearly $1 billion in loans to Massey Energy and Arch Coal, two of the largest companies involved in the environmentally devastating process of mountaintop removal coal mining. Mountaintop removal mining has already reduced 500 square miles of mountains to rubble and buried over 1,200 miles of streams in Southern Appalachia.

Bank of America has also made loans and facilitated stock offerings for Peabody Energy to the tune of several billion dollars. Peabody is infamous for its human rights violations against Native Americans. Since 1975, over 14,000 indigenous people, mostly Dine’, have been forcibly relocated off of their ancestral lands to make way for Peabody’s Black Mesa strip mine in northeastern Arizona. This strip mine, the largest in the US, has devastated thousands of acres of indigenous land and drained local aquifers that are essential for sustaining life in this desert climate. In addition to these abuses, Peabody Energy, along with a number of other companies funded by Bank of America, are pursuing the construction of a new wave of dirty coal plants.

“By targeting coal industry investors, we can undermine their financial support which they depend on to continue operation. The less money they have, the less coal they can extract and burn. In the face of cataclysmic climate change, we do not have time to wait for government regulations. We must directly intervene now!” said Jennifer Clayson, who participated in the ride.

This week’s G8 meetings failed to even begin to address climate change. While some European countries pushed for 50% emissions cuts by 2050, the US managed to derail even this goal, which falls far short of the reductions that are necessary. In the end, the G8 countries agreed to “consider” cutting greenhouse gas emissions. “In the face of massive species extinction, drought, and rising sea levels, the best these world leaders can come up with is to ‘consider’ doing something? Until there is real change, we, along with people around the world, will continue to take direct action against those responsible for climate change,” said Liam Jefferson. According to scientists, greenhouse gas emissions need to be slashed by at least 80% by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

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