Today, activists from Money Rebellion (a group within Extinction Rebellion) and Animal Rebellion have taken on credit card debt to pay reparations on behalf of Barclays, calling on the bank to cancel the debt and start repairing the harm they and the wider financial system are causing. Leading the action is GP Sarah Benn, who has made a video explaining why she is taking this action.
Dr. Sarah Benn states: “Our financial system is killing us. Our lives and planetary stability are being sacrificed for ever-increasing profit and growth. Shameful inequality is laid ever-more bare by the pandemic and increasing climate & ecological devastation financed by profiteering institutions. Having enjoyed decades of good income in a secure job that seeks to preserve life and health, I have a responsibility to put my money where my mouth is and take the consequences. Today, I’m acting and speaking out in the hope that other individuals who are in a position to do so will join me and that institutions like Barclays will step up and do the right thing.”
In Barclays’ ghastly history, it had invested in South Africa’s Apartheid and bankrolled transatlantic trafficking in enslaved people. Today, it’s driving biodiversity loss, plastic production, and world hunger. Barclays is the biggest funder of fossil fuels in Europe, having invested more than $118bn since the Paris Agreement, and was 2019’s worst bank in the Arctic for funding fracking, coal, and gas. As the main creditor of Cargill, North America’s largest beef processor, Barclays finances a leading cause of mass extinction, greenhouse gas emissions, and air and water pollution. Moreover, Barclays exploits tax havens, snatching billions of dollars away from easing global poverty and hunger with its tax-dodging, carrying forward its past racism into present-day neocolonialism. Considering the independent and synergistic effects of Barclays’ actions are myriad atrocities against life and climate, it’s a grave hypocrisy that Chairman of Barclays UK, Sir Ian Cheshire, is a UK Government advisor for COP26.
With this debt strike, XR’s Money Rebellion  is drawing on the historical tradition of financial disobedience in order to expose the political economy’s complicity in the climate & ecological emergency.  Since Barclays’ investments help fuel current and future devastation, UK citizens are using their Barclaycards to make donations to frontline organisations battling the bank’s effects. These include Survival International, which helps global Indigenous speakers report on grim inequities, the Akacia School, which provides a culturally-relevant education for UK children of Afrikan heritage, and a range of animal justice and plant-based food organisations. Rebels have little or no intention of repaying the debts, and have pledged donations to match any debt Barclays forgives in acknowledging its part in having caused incalculable harm.
Participants have issued an open letter to the bank, demanding that Barclays:
- Tells the truth by fully disclosing its social, climate and ecological impacts whilst highlighting that such destructive behaviour is incentivised by our current political economy.
- Acts now to stop financing and enabling destruction in the shortest possible time frame and ends the:
- Financing of fossil fuels and industrial animal agriculture.
- Financing of other projects that destroy habitats and tear apart the communities of Indigenous people.
- Participation in the offshore finance industry which enables tax dodging.
- Champions Citizens’ Assemblies at all key levels, including the global, with mandates to design a regenerative political economy in service to all people and life on earth.
Another debt-striker, Jane McCarthy, says: “The vast majority of Barclays customers probably have no idea of the terrible harm the bank has created, and continues to create, in financing industries and activities that are destroying our planet. I am taking part in this action by Money Rebellion because Barclays has to acknowledge its immediate need to change course and make reparations for the terrible harm its financial activities inflict on people and their communities.”
Zoe Cohen, also taking part in the action, states: “Barclays UK has 24 million customers! That’s 24 million individuals or businesses, and I’d bet most of them are blissfully unaware of the harm their bank is doing and how it’s reducing the life chances of their children. So I’m doing this to demand that Barclays takes responsibility for its actions and the ecocidal harm it’s causing, and to help raise awareness about the truth of Barclays amongst its millions of existing customers. The more customers switch banks or threaten to do so, the more Barclays might start to listen. What I want to say to the board members of Barclays is: ‘What stories do you want your grandchildren to tell about you once you’re dead? That you didn’t change and therefore contributed to the death and suffering of billions of people and species extinctions, or that you woke up and led the charge to a better world? It is time for you to decide which side of history you’re on.’”
Any bank who continues to fund climate destruction demonstrates that it cannot be trusted with our money and leaves monetary defiance as our only option. We encourage anyone who wants to stand up to toxic banks to join the Repair Harm debt strike action and/or the wider Money Rebellion team.
- Ellisif Wasmuth, Money Rebellion — +44 (0)7769202138 (WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal)
- Tatiana Seryán, Money Rebellion Global— +1 (845) 269-2185 (Telegram, Signal)
- Email | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram
- £R Press Release Images; Credits to XR UK
- Hashtags — #RepairHarm, #MoneyRebellion, #DebtStrike, #FossilBanks, #BarclaysUK
NOTES FOR EDITORS
-  Barclays Repair the Harm launch video (Youtube video)
-  Barclays faces apartheid court action (The Independent, 2006)
-  Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds among UK banks that had links to slavery (Guardian, 2020)
-  The banking sector’s role in the global biodiversity crisis (portfolio.earth, 2020)
-  The banks that fund plastic packaging pollution (portfolio.earth, 2020)
-  Time to clean up: How Barclays promotes the use of tax havens in Africa (actionaid, 2013)
-  Banking on Climate Change (Rainforest Action Network, 2020)
-  Cargill: The worst company nin the world (Mighty Earth, 2019)
-  Friends of COP – UN Climate Change Conference (UK Government website)
-  Money Rebellion (website)
-  Governments and firms in 28 countries sued over climate crisis – report (Guardian, 2019)
-  Survival International: Home (website)
-  The Akacia School (website)
-  Open letter to Barclays Bank (2020)
-  Barclays UK Performance Review (2017)
-  Barclays Repair the Harm: Action outline (2020)
-  Join Money Rebellion (Action Network sign-up website)
ABOUT EXTINCTION REBELLION
Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and increasingly rapid climate change. If urgent and radical action isn’t taken, we’re heading towards 4˚C warming, and the societal collapse and mass loss of life that that implies. The younger generation, racially marginalised communities and the Global South are on the front-line. No-one will escape the devastating impacts.
Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.
Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:
- Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
- Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
- Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.
- In the UK, come to one of our events, join the Rebellion Network and let us know how you can help out.
- Start a group where you are: in the UK or around the world.
- Find your local group.
- Check out the International XR website, with links to the French, German, Italian and UK websites.
- And while your time and energy are of most importance, if you are financially able to donate money, see our crowdfunder.
About Rising Up!
Extinction Rebellion emerged from the Rising Up! network, which promotes a fundamental change of our political and economic system to one which maximises well-being and minimises harm. Change needs to be nurtured in a culture of reverence, gratitude and inclusion while the tools of civil disobedience and direct action are used to express our collective power.