Greetings from the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Health & Fitness Expo! I’m here manning a booth with RAN Chicago volunteers to get the word out about Bank of America’s financing of the filthiest polluting coal plants in Chicago.
That’s right, when 45,000 runners join the Bank of America-funded Chicago marathon this weekend, the route will take them past one of the city’s dirtiest coal plants, the Midwest Generation Fisk plant. Which, as it happens, is also financed Bank of America.
Aren’t you tired of Wall Street banks thinking that sponsorships, fancy ads and commercial gimmicks can buy our favor at the same time that they raise fees, foreclose on homes and fund air pollution?
You’re not alone. We’ve met with many folks at this event who agree and are eager to send a strong message to Bank of America that they want to see the bank quit underwriting the coal industry. Many have signed cards pledging that they will close their BoA bank accounts and boycott BoA’s ATMs if the bank doesn’t act swiftly.
These people fall into three main categories:
Residents of Chicago who are already concerned about their local, dirty coal plants. Chicago is the only major metropolitan area with not only one, but two polluting coal plants within the city limits. The impact of these toxic coal plants is very real. Coal-fired power plants kill between 13,000 and 34,000 people a year — that’s one person every 15 minutes. That staggering figure includes the 42 Chicagoans who die as a result of pollution from the city’s two coal plants.
Nurses, doctors and other people health-sector workers. This community has firsthand experience responding to respiratory illnesses. In fact, many participants in this race are running to raise awareness about lung conditions and thanked us for raising awareness with them.
People who are fed up with bank-fee-hikes. Many have come to our booth to communicate that they are already considering cancelling their BoA accounts because of the bank’s exorbitant charges. Learning about bank-financed pollution gives them one more reason.
We’ve had a few double-takers: folks approaching our booth wondering if we are Bank of America…? And then giving us a smile when they realize that we’re actually here because we care about how Bank of America uses all of our money.
Sponsoring marathons is no substitute for actually being a responsible corporate citizen. Now more than ever, we need banks to show leadership. Bank of America can start right now by ending its financing of Chicago’s coal plants — helping to protect the health of our communities and our climate. We will settle for nothing less.