A fresh breeze blew on Tuesday as almost three hundred people gathered for a climate rally in Northampton, MA. We heard from several speakers, including elders, teenagers, and faith leaders, and we chanted and sang. Then we marched down both sides of Main Street, led by an exuberant marching brass band, pausing to chant at Bank of America and TD Bank. The crowd assembled at the intersection beside the new Chase Bank office that will open at 1 King Street. Holding signs, we lined the sidewalks and cheered as about a dozen customers took turns cutting up their credit cards. Accompanied by the band’s high-spirited music, we carried out a ceremonial cutting-up of an oversized Chase Bank credit card by an oversized pair of scissors. We pledged to picket Chase Bank regularly and to make it clear that no one should bank there until it stops funding fossil fuel expansion.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette covered the story here.  Below is the statement I made as the rally began.


Photo credit: Robert A. Jonas

I am happy to say that this rally is one of about a hundred events taking place today across the U.S. as thousands of people gather inside and outside big banks to demand climate action.

Let’s begin by taking a moment to appreciate the living world around us, to notice the gift of blue sky overheard, to notice the trees and green-growing things that give us the oxygen that fills our lungs and with whom we exchange the elements of life as we breathe in and out, to notice the good Earth beneath our feet, supporting our every step.

We are here to stand up for life and we are not alone. We will speak and sing and march in the company – and with the support – of all the creatures and elements with whom we share this planet. We affirm our kinship with them, our interdependence. As we mark the vernal equinox, a day of balance between light and dark, we renew our commitment to bring life back into balance.

With every religious tradition and with people of faith and goodwill everywhere, we renew our insistence that the Earth is holy and that it was given to us to cherish and protect, not to destroy.

Some of us are here because we’re frightened. Big banks like Chase that fund fossil fuels expansion are pushing the planet to record levels of heat, causing massive droughts, floods, monster hurricanes, and fires. Yesterday’s report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes it frighteningly clear that unless we change course fast, we won’t be able to leave our children and our children’s children a habitable world.

Photo credit: Robert A. Jonas

Some of us are here because we’re sad. Big banks like Chase that fund fossil fuel expansion are unraveling the web of life before our eyes, and we weep to acknowledge what we have lost and may soon lose, from coral reefs and glaciers to predictable seasons and moderate weather.

Some of us are here because we’re angry. We’re morally outraged when big banks like Chase continue to pour money into building new pipelines and new fracking wells, although climate scientists around the world and organizations like the International Energy Agency and the United Nations have called for an end to any fossil fuel expansion.1

Fear, sorrow, anger may have brought us here. But above all, we’re here because we love. We love this beautiful Earth. We love its creatures. We love each other. The spirit of love that connects us to each other and to the land compels us to call upon big banks: Quit propping up fossil fuels! Quit funding climate chaos! Invest instead in clean energy and climate resilience and healthy communities!

People of faith and goodwill cry out: Let it be known. Let it be known. The Earth is sacred and we won’t stand idly by and let it be destroyed.

1. Vanessa Arcara, “Now more than ever: Banks must act on climate

#StopDirtyBanks #32123

Massachusetts and New England just marked the warmest January on record, and our region is nearing the end of what is likely one of its warmest winters yet.

Given the relentless pace of climate change – the ongoing news of extreme weather events, record floods and storms, unpredictable seasons, and vanishing species, with 18 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disaster events across the U.S. in just the last year alone – it is appalling to learn that Chase Bank is expanding into New England and plans to open a branch right here in downtown Northampton.

Chase Bank is about to open a branch in downtown Northampton

Of the four giant banks that lend to Big Oil – Chase, Bank of America, Citibank and Wells Fargo – Chase is the biggest investor. According to the Sierra Club, in the years since the Paris Climate Agreement, Chase has been the world’s largest banker of fossil fuels. From 2016 to 2020, it poured more than $316 billion into the fossil fuel industry.

Chase wants us to believe it’s committed to going “green,” citing, for example, its pledge to reach net-zero emissions from its lending and investment portfolios by 2050. But that pledge is only hot air until Chase stops financing the expansion of fossil fuels.

Bill McKibben points out that the offices of the four big banks – including the beautiful old Silverscape Designs building that Chase will occupy – might as well have a giant smokestack coming out the top, to remind us how much carbon they produce when they lend money to expand pipelines and fracking wells.

That’s why people will head to downtown Northampton on Tuesday, March 21, to protest Chase Bank’s funding of climate chaos. Our event (https://bit.ly/ChaseRally) is being organized by many local groups and will be one of scores of nationwide events that day – from Puget Sound to the southern tip of Florida, from Dallas to Washington, D.C. – as people stand up to the big banks that so recklessly fund further development of fossil fuels.

On March 21, we’ll gather at 4:30 p.m. in Pulaski Park for a short, peaceful rally that will feature a few speakers and some singing. Then we’ll march in procession down Main Street, passing two other banks notorious for funding fossil fuel projects, TD Bank and Bank of America.

Our final stop will be the big intersection of King and Main Streets, near the location of the new Chase Bank. We want everyone to know that Chase Bank is enabling the fossil fuel industry and to urge people not to bank at Chase. After all, we have many good, green, local banks and credit unions to choose from.

I don’t know exactly who will come, but here’s what I envision. I imagine that elders like me will be there, people who’ve experienced in our lifetime a dramatic, accelerating rise in global carbon dioxide levels driven by the burning of fossil fuels. When I was born in 1951, the level of CO2 in the air had for millennia never risen above the safe, stable level of 300-310 parts per million.

Today’s level has skyrocketed to over 417 parts per million, pushing the atmosphere into territory not seen for millions of years. Humans now breathe air that our ancestors wouldn’t recognize. Elders will join the rally because we’ve witnessed this unprecedented change and are determined to leave a habitable world to those who come after us. Stopping banks from funding new fossil projects is essential to stabilizing the climate and drawing down emissions.

Chase will occupy the building once used by Silverscapes Design

As I imagine it, parents will come to the rally cradling small children or pushing young ones in strollers. What is fiercer than a mother’s love? We parents want to safeguard the lives and health – indeed, the very future – of our beloved children. We’re willing to devote an hour to confirm that our love for our children and our neighbors’ children means moving our money away from banks that propel climate catastrophe and urging dirty banks to clean up their lending practices.

Students and young adults will be there, knowing that their future is at stake. Many young people are acutely aware of climate grief and anxiety and know that coming together to take action is a path to building a better future.

What’s more, opening a banking account with a green local bank rather than one of the giant banks turns out to be one of the most effective ways we can reduce our carbon footprint.

Faith leaders and members of diverse religions will join the rally because – whatever our tradition – we know that laying waste to the Earth and destroying the web of life violates our values. Faith communities have a long history of pressing successfully for social change, from child labor to women’s rights and abolition to the civil rights movement. We express our religious identity when we commit ourselves to mending a broken world.

Finally, both long-time activists and newcomers will join the rally, shaking off what experts call learned helplessness, the sense that we have no power to change a difficult situation. The truth is that we do have power to imagine a better world and can work together to bring that world into being.

Insisting that banks stop propping up the fossil fuel industry is a task that all of us can embrace. Let’s use our finances to fight climate change.


The Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas is an Episcopal priest who works to advance climate justice for the two Episcopal dioceses in Massachusetts and for Southern New England Conference, United Church of Christ. She lives with her husband in Northampton.

This essay was published on March 14, 2023, as a guest column in the print edition of Daily Hampshire Gazette (Northampton, MA).