Originally published at Huffington Post
October 2, 2019 by Adam Weymouth
Rachel Heaton understands better than most the power banks have to shape our world. Heaton, a member of the Muckleshoot tribe, started to make the connection between money and climate change as an activist against the oil pipeline at Standing Rock, North Dakota.
She was one of a group of activists who identified Wells Fargo as the principal bank investing in the controversial pipeline that passes under the Missouri River, the source of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s water supply. Their 2016 campaign, organizing pickets outside dozens of the bank’s branches in their home city of Seattle, ultimately persuaded the city to close its account with Wells Fargo in February 2017. (Although Seattle did eventually go back to the bank, for lack of other options.)
Following this campaign, Heaton co-founded Mazaska Talks — mazaska is the Lakota word for “money” — in January 2017, an indigenous-led alliance aiming to bring people together across the country to demand cities pull their money away from the Wall Street banks that finance fossil fuels.
“What we’re pushing to get back to are those values of respecting Mother Earth, and understanding that if we allow these banks and these fossil fuel companies to continue exploring and taking these resources, we are no longer going to have a Mother Earth,” Heaton said.
Universities have often been at the forefront of pushing for social change. They’ve led divestment campaigns against tobacco and apartheid in the past. As long-term investors with a social mission, they are obvious institutions to take up the current divestment movement, said Alyssa Lee, the director of campus programs at Divest Ed, an organization supporting over 75 U.S. college divestment campaigns.
Now, the divestment campaign has moved far beyond college campuses. Climate strikes took place around the world last month, involving more than 6 million people across 185 countries, demanding the end of fossil fuels and a move to renewable energy. Lee sees that the role of divestment as key. “If you want to see the climate strike demands being met, one of the necessary steps is to call out the role of the financing and the investment in the fossil fuel industry,” said Lee.