Closely observed by two Bank of America employees who drove up from Los Angeles, three protestors arrived at an ATM on the UCSB campus at about 10 a.m. on Friday, November 16, plunked down a bag of charcoal, and festooned it with yellow caution tape which read “Global Warming Crime Scene.” The three then spent the next four hours trying to educate fellow students as to Bank of America’s role in financing coal mining operations and the construction of new coal-fired power plants, which emit significant amounts of the global warming culprit carbon dioxide. BofA is the second largest investor in coal plants after Citibank, which has no branches or ATMs near UCSB.
Other protests took place across the nation on Friday, designated a National Day of Action by the Rainforest Action Network. In San Francisco-Bank of America’s birthplace-protestors released banner-bearing helium balloons inside Citibank and Bank of America branch offices, and they also shut-down ATMs, though the UCSB protestors chose not to go that route. “We didn’t want to make people angry,” said Chrissy Elles, a third-year student active with the Campus Democrats, and the UCSB event’s organizer. In the course of four hours, the UCSB students gathered 75 signatures on a petition asking CEO Kenneth Lewis, at the Bank of America’s Charlotte, North Carolina headquarters, to stop funding coal power and invest more in renewable energy sources. Afterward, Elles and her co-conspirators approached the two bank officials and thanked them “for letting us demonstrate,” she said. “It was kind of rewarding that they were concerned enough to send someone up from L.A.” Elles expressed some disappointment but not much surprise at having persuaded only about 50 percent, by her estimate, of passing students to sign the petition. “We are kind of an apathetic bunch,” she said, of her generation of college students. “But those who did sign were upset to learn that Bank of America invests so heavily in coal.”
Bank of America spokesperson Colleen Haggarty said that the bank has had a number of dialogs with RAN about their concerns, and had worked with them on various “green opportunities.” She added that 50 percent of America’s electricity comes from coal. “We are challenged as a nation to develop and use more renewable energies,” she said. As for the bank itself, she added, “We will [continue to] invest in coal and power companies, and we’re working toward investments that will help these companies use cleaner and renewable sources of energy.” Haggerty noted the bank’s commitment, announced in February, of $20 billion to assist borrowers of all kinds to reduce climate change through the use of green building and technologies.