Written by Deb Russell in Austin Texas
Spencer, Tracey, Smitty (director of Public Citizen, TX) and I converged on the Wells Fargo drive through branch at S. Congress and Riverside (chosen for visibility’s sake) at 1:00pm CST. Our aim was to educate the public, who was hopefully in a little more sympathetic environmentally responsible mode since it was Earth Day, on Wells Fargo’s “dirty money” and ties to funding of TXU, amongst others – but specifically TXU as the big news had just come down the day before that they are building 11 new coal plants in TX, for a total of 15 new plants for the state with the DIRTIEST energy known to humans!
We dressed the part of the “Dirty Money Deputies” as per our lovely accessories provided by the campaign, held our beautifully crafted “Lootin and Pollutin'” banner, and made a couple of our own signs, “Wells Fargo:
Investments of Mass Destruction” and “Wells Fargo Funds TXU/TXU Builds 15 Dirty Coal Plants!” and shouted “no money for dirty energy” and “fund the future” and like slogans.
We hoped the drive-thru customers would consider pulling their money out of WF so as to not feed the beast. We suggested to one passerby who questioned where should she put her money to do so in a credit union.
Why we felt it necessary to target Wells Fargo in Austin (and in other TX
–Wells Fargo has about 3.8 million wrapped up with TXU (we also called on local leaders to step up as 3 of the upcoming coal plants are 3 counties north of us). TXU, by the way, is the 8th highest contributer to the Bush
’04 presidential campaign.
–unlike most corps, they operate with no comprehensive social or environmental guidelines.
They also fund:
–some of the dirtiest energy companies, namely those behind the nation’s largest coal-powered plants soon to be built including: NRG Energy; Dynergy; and Massey Energy (connected to the Appalacians issue).
–Burlington Resources (Houston co.) which is notorius for human rights abuses in the Amazon in pursuit of oil in Peru and Ecuador
–coal extraction companies (see Westmoreland and Jewett Mine in TX) and clear-cutting companies
–the most destructive and irresponsible oil extraction companies
During the action, although no media arrived despite some hard core, albeit last-minute lasso-ing, we did have a German documentary film crew that I was working with while they were in town come film the event (they are making a film on less lethal weapons, an issue of which I’ve been particularly involved in locally). They were actually filming me “being an activist” for the film to show how I work on various issues and live up to my “Active Activist” 2005 Austin Chronicle designation. They interiewed Smitty on the Wells Fargo subject following, and we’ll hopefully have that and some images available for download in the next couple of weeks.
The Statesman did briefly report on us, although they had the wrong location and failed to mention the TXU connection – which was clearly our message.
Also keep an eye in the Chronicle for an upcoming story:
Earth gets its Austin due
In a series of festivals, Central Texans celebrate conservation.
By Asher Price
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Ripping established trees from the soil seems like an un-Earth Day activity. But that’s just what a happy band of Austinites was doing, with relish, Saturday morning.
“It’s like a rainforest canopy up there,” said David Kendall as he peered at the sky through a grove of trees. “I wish I had my chainsaw with me.”
The trees he was eyeing, as it turned out, were the weedy and invasive ligustrum, an Asian plant that seems to have implanted itself in town, crowding out the native greenery.
Armed with bright orange weed wrenches, so heavy they looked better suited for highway construction, about 60 people fanned across South Austin’s Stacy Park on seek-and-destroy missions for the ligustrum.
The activity, part of the Austin Parks Foundation’s It’s My Park initiative, was just one way the city was celebrating Earth Day, which promotes conservation and appreciation of the environment.
In Zilker Park, Austinites gathered for a music and food festival; on Block 21, just by City Hall, people took in an art festival with work using natural materials; at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, performance artists participated in an Extravagreenza; and downtown demonstrators protested a bank they say invests in destructive mining.
Even as the city continues to sprawl, Austin has been consistently recognized as relatively Earth-y: A report this month from the Green Guide, a Web site dedicated to green living, ranked Austin second among the most energy-efficient, least-polluting cities.
Among the most popular festivals Saturday was the Block 21 party, where a dozen or so artists had constructed sculptures using such materials as sticks, bamboo and seashells.
“There are no secret ingredients in what we do,” said Kindra Welch, a natural builder who had concocted a giant vat of red clay for people to play with. “You can pronounce everything on our ingredient list.”
Nearby, Sabina Reynolds, an art teacher at San Marcos High School, put finishing touches on “Earth Goddess.”
One side of an enormous sandwich board sported a striking portrait of a personified Earth, made of sticks and shells; the other side, constructed by her students, had a mosaic of glass, plastic, tape cassettes and bottle caps.
“It’s shows the duality of the natural world and the man-made one,” Reynolds explained.
Earth Day can have some bite.
Demonstrators gathered outside a Wells Fargo branch on West 15th Street to protest what they claimed was the bank’s financing of oil, coal, logging and mining operations.
Wells Fargo did not return a request for comment late Saturday, but in late March, it announced that it had created an environmental advisory board to “integrate environmental responsibility into its business practices and procedures.”