Follow Your Money—Green Investing

Being intentional about where you invest will help leave a better world for your grandchildren and theirs.

As a child growing up in the 1950s, I would bring a dollar to school every Wednesday to deposit in our local Dime Savings Bank, with each deposit being handwritten in my bankbook. That experience taught me to put a “little something” away all through my working years. Now, I have a tidy sum of money that will support me through my retirement and, I hope, help bolster my children’s and grandchildren’s futures—but only if the world is not consumed by raging forest fires, unprecedented storms, or a host of increasingly common climate disasters.

Our investments are meant to secure our future, but the world’s largest asset managers—Vanguard, Fidelity, and BlackRock—are investing our retirement savings into fossil fuel development and deforestation, which puts us all at risk.It’s well-documented that just staying at our current fossil fuel consumption will send the world past 2°C of warming. Yet, rather than heed warnings to reduce emissions, the fossil fuel industry plans to increase production through 2030, producing twice as much emissions as our carbon budget allows—funded by our investments.

The danger is not only to our climate, but also to our nest eggs. Fossil fuel investments are projected to lose half their value by 2036 as the world is forced to transition to renewable energy. According to a November 2021 article in The Guardian, many economists believe climate change will cause the next financial crisis, while too many American families are still recovering from the last one. As in 2008, financial institutions are making potentially catastrophic bets with our money on doomed assets, but this time those assets are fossil fuels. If these companies continue to ignore climate risk, their investors will face increasing wealth destruction. These are not the safe, steady investment choices they claim to be.

This financial danger is compounded by the risk of climate chaos through projects that undermine indigenous people’s rights and disproportionately harm communities of color. In the Ecuadorian Amazon, indigenous Quechua and Campesino communities are at risk of losing their drinking water due to the Block 28 drilling operation on their land—an operation to which they did not consent. Together, BlackRock and Vanguard have $1.2 billion in investments in oil companies operating in the Amazon that are contributing to indigenous and human rights abuses, forest destruction, and loss of biodiversity.

I am an elder—not an economist, nor a financial analyst—and therefore, I am most concerned about the world that I am leaving to future generations. Yes, I want to secure my own financial stability but not at the expense of my grandchildren’s future.

I believe today’s elders have a responsibility to act wisely and to speak up for the unborn children of the future—following the advice of our Native American neighbors who counsel that we must consider the seven generations in all our actions. This “Seventh Generation Principle” was a core value of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) who taught that we must respect and care for this world as we are “borrowing it” from future generations. Can we become “good ancestors” and ask ourselves, “What is the impact of our actions on those who come after us?”

As a child, my parents impressed upon me the importance of returning anything that I borrowed in the same or even better condition. Yet today we are on the path to leave a dirty and depleted world to our children. A world that is less healthy, with fewer resources, and many more problems, including an increasing number of young people do not want to bring children into this world.

Green Investing

Although many of us care deeply about climate change we often don’t know what to do about it. We might feel “small,” facing the immensity of the financial industry. While it’s true that individually we do not have much power, by working together we can make a difference. We can join the growing global movement of people—ordinary folks like you and me—who are leveraging their power as customers and demanding changes in fossil fuel financing.

Start now: Urge your asset manager to offer climate safe investments that do not include fossil fuels, deforestation practices, or high-emitting industries that are not actively decarbonizing. Attend Fix My Funds webinars, where we can support each other in using new tools, like Fossil Free Funds, signing petitions, and sending letters to asset managers. We can empower ourselves as skillful and confident investor activists.

Our investments are our resources. How they are used by our investment companies will determine the world that we leave to those we love.

We have an opportunity, as older folks, to fully step into our role as elders and connect our love for our children with our concern for future generations—our descendants. This love will help us overcome any discomfort and empower our actions, and demand that our financial institutions do the right thing and stop funding the destructive practices that harm the future for all.

As we embody our values and create hope through our actions, we’ll move steps closer toward leaving that thriving and just world that we desire for future generations.

Lynne Iser is President of Elders Action Network, and directs their Fix My Funds campaign as they works to build a movement of elders addressing the critical issues of our time. She previously co-founded the Spiritual Eldering Institute (, with Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, and now teaches the work of Joanna Macy. For the future of her grandchildren, she is a member of the Rocking Chair Rebels, and an active participant in the Vanguard-SOS campaign to end the financing of fossil fuels.


Check out these online resources to help stop the financing of fossil fuels:

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