Students of Environmental Alliance Club Attend Global Climate Strike To End Fossil Fuel Financing

This particular strike focused on ending fossil fuel finance and the money that banks, specifically Chase Bank, invest in fossil fuels.

Students from high schools around Chicago and Loyola left school early Friday, March 2 to participate in a Global Climate Strike led by Fridays For Future, an international youth climate advocacy organization, which took place in The Loop and Heritage Park. 

This particular strike focused on ending fossil fuel finance and the money that banks, specifically Chase Bank, invest in fossil fuels. 

Fossil fuels are one of the highest contributors to America’s economy and consist of 85% of our energy supply, making them an appealing industry for banks to invest in due to the high profit involved. 

The Students of Environmental Alliance (SEA), a student-led environmental advocacy club at Loyola, has been preparing for the strike since December. 

Brian Thomspon, a junior who is double majoring in environmental policy and political science, is the Local Policy and Action Campaign (LPAC) leader for SEA. LPAC focuses on getting members involved and educated on the impacts of environmental measures that go beyond just Loyola, according to Thompson.

As the community partnership chair, Thompson also attends community meetings that involve environmental discussions with local organizations like the Edgewater Environmental Coalition, an organization led by community members in Edgewater that focus on encouraging people to lead more sustainable lives through education and advocacy.  

SEA attended another climate strike led by Friday’s For Future in late September which focused on climate reparations and justice. Friday’s For Future also has teenagers helping to organize the strikes, including Natasha Bhatia who is a junior at Hinsdale Central High School. 

Bhatia started working with Friday’s For Future after participating in It’s Our Future, a Chicago-based environmental advocacy organization. She said she directly helped organize and plan the climate strike and the event in September. 

“Until we stop fossil fuel financing, we can’t stop our reliance on fossil fuels in the first place,” Bhatia said. “This is our future.”

Chase Bank has continued to profit off fossil fuels for years due to their investments, according to CNBC. While they profit, other parts of the world are directly facing the effects of climate change, according to the United Nations of Climate Change

JPMorgan Chase & Co. invested $382.40 billion from 2016-2021 alone, making them the world’s largest bank investor of fossil fuels. 

Other banks like Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America hold the second, third and fourth place for highest fossil fuel financers in 2016-2021 . JPMorgan Chase holds the number one spot by 34%, according to the Fossil Fuel Finance Report

“Many of these companies have been profiting in the last couple years, while many of the other industries and individuals across the country and across the world have been suffering in the wake of economic recession and in the wake of the pandemic,” Thompson said. 

Part of holding the strike during the day was to spread the message of ending fossil finance around the city. 

Evanston Township High School sophomore Jexa Eidenburg, heard about the strike through an email chain for Friday’s For Future they signed up for after the strike in September.

“Banks are one of the biggest funders of fossil fuels and so is BP, so it might be good to have people who have the power to stop funding,” Eidenburg said. 

Oil company British Petroleum (BP) is another large contributor to fossil fuel investment and one that the strike was targeting, as its gas stations are placed so frequently around Chicago. 

Eidenburg missed two classes to attend the strike, because they felt it was important to stand up to the companies investing so much money into the fossil fuel industry. 

Bryce Friedman, a Loyola student not affiliated with SEA, also participated in the strike after hearing about it through one of his friends. Friedman said his religion plays an important part in his stance on climate issues. 

“I’m a Jesuit, and Pope Francis called for us as a Catholic Church to care for our common home,” Friedman said. 

After the march, people from both SEA and Friday’s For Future gave speeches in front of Chase Bank  located at 10 S Dearborn St, voicing their concerns and frustrations with the bank’s participation in investment of the fossil fuel industry. 

Megan Barnhart, a first-year Loyola student majoring in environmental economics, is a new member of the LPAC group of SEA this semester. 

Barnhart represented Loyola at the march by giving a speech about the importance of divestment and how the bank’s involvement in the fossil fuel industry is significant to how climate change will be dealt with moving forward. 

“I never really knew that banks or other corporations were involved so directly because obviously you just think the bad guys are the oil companies, but there’s more behind that,” Barnhart told The Phoenix.  

As for Loyola’s involvement in how to stop investments, they created a policy in 2021 that outlines a strategy to divest from fossil fuels and directly invest in funds and companies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Loyola website

The main goals of LPAC and the rest of the SEA is to monitor Loyola’s action plan on divestment and hold them accountable for making those changes and fulfilling their promise. 

“Ideally, the idea is to start going toward clean energy, and the main factor that’s holding us back is that it’s very costly to do so,” Thompson said. “Banking, if they can help divest some of that interest money into cleaner energy such as solar or wind, or any other form like that, it can start encouraging not only the fossil fuel industries to start looking elsewhere, but also other interested investors to start looking into cleaner energies.” 

SEA plans to continue their work towards sustainability by encouraging students to attend the climate strikes and by working alongside Loyola to hold the school accountable for their plans regarding divestment. 

Featured image by Bridget Moehlman

Anna Waldron

Anna Waldron