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Activists use a message of love to urge banks to divest from fossil fuels

In this Grounded feature we talk with environmental activists Meghan Lewis and MacKenzie Harris who are delivering Valentine’s cards to banks from Mother Earth

A small group from Fridays for Future Guelph have chosen Valentine’s Day as a day of action to deliver their message of motherly love to the banks.  

The Fridays for Future movement, inspired by Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, has established chapters in communities around the world and they are encouraging members to take action on climate change in a variety of unique and creative ways. 

“We are holding a very small campaign called ‘Love Your Mother’,” said co-organizer MacKenzie Harris. “It will be aimed at the five banks here in Guelph because currently all five banks have massive fossil fuel investments.” 

It won’t be a typical protest. There will be no people carrying signs or someone with a megaphone leading protest chants. It will be, if all goes as planned, a relatively quiet affair. 

“So, we are just going to go in, a small group of four of us, and we are going to deliver them some letters explaining that we believe it is a financial risk to keep your money invested in fossil fuels,” said Harris. “It is also a risk to our future. We are afraid and we have questions.  We hope they will engage us in answering them.”

Their goal is to be non-confrontational and encourage respectful dialogue.

“We are going to go to bank managers, which is why we are keeping our movement small,” said Harris. “We don’t want to overwhelm them with a mass of people. We are going right to the manager to see if we can speak to them.” 

Harris said they will be visiting RBC, TD, BMO, Scotiabank and CIBC because they  collectively invested more than $464 billion in the fossil fuel industry between 2016 and 2019. 

They have prepared letters for the banks listing their concerns that are signed by Mother Earth

“Let’s be the voice for Mother Earth because she doesn’t get a voice,” said Harris. “That’s what our letter we will be reading to the bank is. It is expressed as if we are speaking as Mother Earth.” 

Harris will be joined by fellow activist Meghan Lewis who has enlisted some help from her three young children. 

“We’ve made five physical Valentine’s cards, one for each bank,” said Lewis. “It started with my five year old daughter signing and some of her school friends. My three year old and five year old drew pictures on there.”

They also collected signatures from student protestors that attended the Youth Climate Strike rally last Friday outside city hall. 

“When we deliver these letters I want to tell them a story of when I was my daughter’s age, five years old, and I opened my first bank account,” said Lewis. “I would like to do that with my own children but I don’t want to do that at any of the five banks that are still contributing to the fossil fuel industry in such a large way.”

They want the banks to demonstrate their commitment to divest in fossil fuels. 

“Our goal with this, is to get people in the community to start talking about it,” said Harris. “We have power with the banks. We have power with our money and this is a place to start. We want to have a chance to talk and ask questions.” 

Lewis said she never considered herself an activist until she got involved with this issue.

“We want to come at this in an authentic way,” said Lewis. “These are my kids and this is the reason I’ve become a climate activist and it is only because I feel like more people need to do the same.”