From Legislation to Banking

The Inflation Reduction Act should become law by about the time you read this. And if you care about creation and climate change and haven’t had a chance to read about it: you should. It’s the biggest legislation in US history to answer what Pope Francis refers to as the “cry of the earth” and the “cry of the poor”. It’s not perfect, and many would have liked to see something closer to the original Build Back Better bill, but this bill will do a lot to reign in climate change. Many say it will reduce America’s carbon emissions by as much as 40% by 2030.

Photo by David McBee

Does this mean we can stop working on combating climate change and promoting social justice? Absolutely not. We need to keep electing and lobbying leaders who will continue to work towards both goals at the local, state, and federal level.

Another place where it’s absolutely necessary to pressure those in the position to do great things, either negatively or positively, is the world of finance. While politicians help to steer public funding, banks and investment companies are responsible for the private lending that fuels so many companies and projects. So we need to not just vote with our ballots, but also with our wallets. Yes, that means not buying products from dirty companies, but it also means redirecting your deposits and investments into institutions that are lending money to good green companies and projects promoting a better future for all. Pope Francis, in Journeying Towards Care for Our Common Home, wrote:

Promote  ethical,  responsible,  and  integral  criteria  for  investment  decision  making,  taking  care  not  to  support  companies  that  harm  human  or  social ecology or environmental ecology.

How can you act on this? First, if you have bank accounts, consider moving them to banks that promote green community investments and that steer away from fossil-fuel investments. There are a number of green websites that rate banks and help you to locate the best ones. Stop the Money Pipeline is a great resource. Recently, I did some research into green banking for the board of King County St Vincent de Paul, on which I serve — and the good news is that there are great options for local green banks as well as some online options. If you live the West Coast, Beneficial State Bank received a great rating. If you prefer credit unions and live in Washington State, check out the very green Verity Credit Union. If, on the other hand, you prefer an online bank, Aspiration is an excellent choice. Live someplace else or want to do more reading about this important subject? Check out Stop the Money Pipeline, Third Act’s Banking on Our Future page, or bank.green.

Of course, another option is to keep your deposits in one of the dirty four American banks: Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, or Citibank and to give them an ultimatum. If you prefer this approach (I don’t), ThirdAct is asking you to sign the pledge and give them until December 21, 2022 to take significant action or will close your account and cut up your credit cards come January 1.

Next week, I will continue the finance discussion with more on responsible investments. Working together, we can help take care of our common home.  

Paul Litwin

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