This week, top Bank of America brass are in Rio for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, shilling for the bank’s green image. Bank representatives are using the Rio +20 conference as a platform to highlight the bank’s recently announced environmental initiative, a half-hearted commitment intended to demonstrate “Bank of America’s legacy of leadership in the environmental arena.” Unfortunately, this supposed legacy is predicated on the notion that Bank of America can continue to pump billions into the coal industry as long as the bank also throws money at the environment.
As executives in Rio worked to promote BofA’s latest greenwash, the ironies of the bank’s grand environmental announcement were on full display outside corporate headquarters in Charlotte. On Thursday, concerned local citizens dumped 500 pounds of dirty coal in front of the bank’s tower to mark the third consecutive day of dangerously polluted Charlotte air. Bucket by bucket, coal rained down, eventually covering a large banner reading “Bank of America’s Environmental Policy.” As black clouds of coal dust billowed, activists and media alike donned respiratory masks.
The message we sent to the BofA execs inside their ivory tower was clear: Paying for coal’s assault on climate stability and public health is an odd way to demonstrate environmental commitment.
Thanks in large part to Bank of America’s investment in the coal industry, Charlotte residents frequently breathe air so polluted that it is unsafe for children, elderly, folks with asthma, or even for general outdoor exercise. This summer, we’re fighting back and holding Bank of America accountable. Charlotte activists will be taking action every day our air is dangerous. (In 2011, there were 24 such days.)
So long as Bank of America is committed to funding coal, it remains committed to sponsoring global climate change, air pollution, and asthma in communities like Charlotte. In the context of billions for dirty coal, “the Bank of America funding of solar energy is like pouring a teaspoon of water on a fire with one hand while pouring a gallon of gasoline on that fire with the other,” said local mother Beth Henry. She punctuated her statement by dumping a heaping bucket of coal outside the bank’s doors.
Until Bank of America is ready to stop funding bad air and climate change, its environmental commitments are nothing more than pretensions. So far, Bank of America hasn’t demonstrated a willingness to clean up its coal mess. After dumping our coal in Charlotte this Thursday, we gave the bank a demonstration in responsibility we hope it will put to use: we rolled up our sleeves and went to work. We didn’t stop until the coal was gone.