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Opinion: Mainers in their ‘third act’ of life pledge to divest from fossil fuel funders


Opinion: Mainers in their ‘third act’ of life pledge to divest from fossil fuel funders

Jan 18, 2023 | 6:15 am ET
By Tom Mikulka
Opinion: Mainers in their ‘third act’ of life pledge to divest from fossil fuel funders
Members of Third Act Vermont meet with the manager of Chase Bank, one of the Big 4 funders of new fossil fuel projects. | via Third Act, Facebook


Opinion: Mainers in their ‘third act’ of life pledge to divest from fossil fuel funders

I am a scientist and at 78 years old am definitely well into my final, third act. For my generation, our first act was opposing the war in Vietnam, marching for Civil Rights, boycotting non-union grapes and boycotting companies who did business with apartheid South Africa. Our second act was raising a family and finding a satisfying career. We also rode the glory days of the fossil fuel era, drove big gas guzzling station wagons, welcomed the new world of plastics and heated our homes with fuel oil #2. What could possibly go wrong? 


Well, It’s been an unusual winter in Maine. As I write, we are having rain and sleet throughout much of southern Maine. Skeptics will quickly say that it’s only a weather cycle and we will be back to snow-covered winters before long. But the climate scientists pay attention to the trends and—while weather does move in cycles throughout recorded history—there are discernible trends that clearly show that our climate in Maine is warming. 

The signs are everywhere. The tick-borne diseases are spreading northward and inland. In Cape Elizabeth it is unsafe for children to play in the woods for most of the year. Moose calves in southern Maine are covered with thousands of blood-sucking ticks with a mortality rate of 86%. The popcorn shrimp we all loved are gone from Maine waters. The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than almost any body of water on the planet and while the lobsters are doing fine with the warmer water for now, the lobster industry south of Maine is in shambles. It’s coming our way. 

The Maine Climate Council predicts that sea rise by the year 2050 will result in over 20,000 lost jobs, almost 18 billion dollars of coast building damage, the loss of 336 miles of public roads and 61 miles of rail and the inundation of approximately 1400 crossings and culverts. 

The 800-pound gorilla in the room may be the weakening and slowing of the Gulf Stream current brought about by the melting of Greenland’s ice cover. There is evidence that it is already happening. The alarm bell was rung by a recent study that found that the Greenland ice sheet is melting 100 times faster than previously thought. What’s the worry? The Gulf Stream is largely responsible for the moderate weather in the Northeast and Europe. Ironically, its weakening will mean shorter growing seasons and severe winters here in Maine and Europe. Only the lobsters will be happy. 

Bill McKibben has been warning us about the problems with burning fossil fuels for over two decades. Now former fossil fuel cheerleaders like the International Energy Agency are saying that no new fossil fuel projects should be started and there should be a massive effort to convert to alternative energy. The recent United Nations Climate Conference, COP27, began with a statement saying the same thing. 

One year ago, McKibben launched a new organization called Third Act. It’s a group made up of people over 60. People over 60 hold 70% of this nation’s wealth and therefore have economic clout. We also firmly believe that we have a special obligation to present and future generations. 

Many of us are customers of the four largest banks in the world: Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Bank of America. These banks are committed to funding new fossil fuel projects for the next 30 years. They boast that they are big funders of green energy while at the same time they are still loving the short-term profits to be made by financing new fossil fuel projects. By contrast, the largest bank in the United Kingdom, HSBC, just announced that they are ending all new fossil fuel funding immediately. 

Across the country, Third Act groups are educating people about the threat that the investment policies of the Big 4 banks pose, and Third Act Maine is asking our local branches of these banks to send the word to their national corporate headquarters: “Stop funding new fossil fuel projects now!” 

If they won’t commit, we are asking young and old to stop doing business with these climate destroyers.

Third Act is planning educational, joyful demonstrations at these banks across the country.  On March 21 at 3pm in Monument Square in Portland, site of the largest Maine branch offices for Bank of America and Chase, there will be a gathering of young and old to highlight the role these banks are playing in the destruction of the biosphere. We are asking their bank managers to meet with us. Please join us.

If you are interested in joining Third Act Maine, please contact us at [email protected]