While I enjoy a good BBQ, what I truly want for Father’s Day is for kids everywhere to initiate honest family conversations about the most pressing issue of their lives: climate change.
In my house, we don’t call it climate change, we call it what we are trying to avoid: climate disaster.
For this Gen X-er, no statistic about food scarcity or news footage of wildfires was as motivating as the day my son asked, “Why don’t we drive an electric car?”
I’d spent much of my career working to boost access to renewable energy and energy-efficient loans and considered myself a good environmental steward. But that day, my family and I began taking the subject more personally. Since that conversation, we’ve bought a second electric car, modified our diet to eat less meat and installed enough solar panels to charge our cars and power our home.
And we kept having honest, open-minded conversations about other areas for potential improvement. We filled out carbon calculators together and read scholarly articles about individual actions that can help curb emissions. What we learned about the banking industry reshaped our thinking and my career. I believe it will even help change the world.
We learned that, for every dollar we hand over to the bank, they make roughly a dollar’s worth of loans or investments—and most of those loans are accelerating climate destruction without our knowledge. While we took two cars out of circulation, banks were using our money to help Americans borrow over half a trillion dollars to purchase 14 million new internal combustion engine cars, trucks and SUVs. As we invested in solar panels, our money was helping fund coal plants and oil extraction. Pooled together, regular customers’ deposits fund trillions of dollars of loans that enable the world’s most polluting companies to operate and expand. According to a study from organizations including Rainforest Action Network and Sierra Club, the world’s biggest banks have invested more than $3.8 trillion of customers’ money in fossil fuels in the five years since the Paris climate agreement.