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Justice intern helps plan Divest the Globe in Seattle

Renee Lumia, a recent graduate of Pacific Lutheran University was looking for and found a way to apply knowledge from her environmental studies and biology degrees to understand how natural phenomena affect human activity.

Renee Lumia with her group call Chase to invest in renewables.  Hundreds participated in Seattle’s Divest the Globe event on Oct. 23.

Before she became an intern with the Pacific Northwest Conference UCC’s Justice Leadership Program her personal spiritual journey had left her with a negative view of religion.  While she believed in a higher power, she said she was an atheist for a while.

Her university advisor recommended the UCC’s JLP program.

Renee was assigned to work with 350 Seattle because of her passion for environment and nonviolent civil disobedience.  She was assigned to All Pilgrims UCC which has a passion for social justice.

October 23 was a highlight for Renee as she helped organize Divest the Globe in Seattle, with hundreds people in 19 action groups protesting at more than 100 banks. Four groups were willing to risk arrest.  Six people were arrested for chaining themselves to a bank entrance.

Larger group protests with signs at Bank of America. Photos courtesy of Renee Lumia

Globally, people in 60 cities in 10 countries on four continents participated in the Big Bank Boycott that day, she said.

In Seattle, 350 Seattle worked with Divest the Globe and Mazaska Talks.  Mazaska is a Lakota word for money.

“The goal of the campaign is to encourage businesses and individuals to pressure banks to divest fossil fuels investments or they would boycott the bank or close their accounts.

The focus is on holdings in tar sands oil, one of the most environmentally detrimental forms of fossil fuels, Renee said.  Banks continue to invest in companies pursuing major construction projects like pipelines and export terminals to ship the oil to Asian markets.

Fossil fuel companies rely on loans from banks to fund the projects, she said.

“Divest the Globe tells the banks that their investment practices have consequences. Mazaska has the same goal.  It grew out of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests as an ongoing effort to end financing of nonconsensual pipelines.  Often fuel companies tell banks they have permission to cross tribal land, but don’t she said.

“We visited every bank in Seattle with tar sands oil investments,” she said.

At the banks, they entered and did different chants like, “Divest from the Pipelines.” They held banners saying, “Invest in renewable energy.”

Then they read a letter calling the bank to divest and asked the bank manager to give the CEO a letter and two petitions, one signed by people who have divested or plan to divest, and a second from UCC churches that have divested or will divest.

Each action group had a route and banks to visit.  One went on bicycles. One dressed as Lorax and used Lorax quotes about defending the environment.  One had a band.  One wore yellow biohazard suits.

Several banks shut down.  The first banks visited called other banks about the protest. Later, banks had signs in the window: “Closed for security issues,” or “Closed due to protests.”  Some called security.

“We chanted outside and gave fliers to passersby. Some let in one person to give the letter and petitions,” Renee said.

Action groups kept in communication with each other.

“It was peaceful and effective. Major banks have divested from fossil fuels because of the movement.  BNP, the second largest bank in Europe and eighth largest in the world is divesting from fossil fuels,” Renee said.  “U.S. Bank divested from an Enbridge Gas Distribution proposed pipeline.

“We need to do events like Oct. 23 over and over.  It’s awesome to be part of such a large movement,” she said. 

It was quite a contrast to sitting in the library for four years studying the environment, said Renee, who valued participating in such a protest, physically going to banks, being shut out and shutting down the banks briefly.

In early September, she started with 350 Seattle, which seeks environmental justice and a green economy.  Planning the boycott was one of her major projects this fall.

Since the Divest the Globe, she has been working on challenging the Thin Green Line region—Oregon, Washington and British Columbia—where fossil fuel companies want to build pipelines and export terminals to export their products to Asia.

“We are forming a “thin green line” to stand against those efforts, to promote a sustainable, just economy for the future through renewable energy,” she said.

Renee is also documenting progress on such projects denial of a key permit for the Longview Coal Export Terminal, and the company’s efforts to challenge the denial. 

She is updating a presentation to show at organizations to spread awareness.  She is also preparing promotional fliers and handouts and an interactive map on the 350 website with updates on projects.

“Even after projects are rejected, companies repeatedly challenge the decisions and try to restart them when attention is diverted,” she said.

Renee is working on education for UCC churches on the bank boycott and divestment.  Some UCC churches have divested. She seeks to inform other churches in the Seattle area about divestment.

She is also organizing Artful Activism, which is developing a musical movement.  It is recruiting musicians who have written songs on climate change and social justice to perform at a concert. Thirteen Pacific Northwest artists recently made an album, “Protect What You Love.”

“Music can reach humans on a different level than other forms of activism,” she said.

In addition, she is rebuilding 350 Seattle’s Civic Action Team to help citizens contact representatives in Congress and the state legislature.

“I am new to the UCC,” said Renee, who is excited to be part of All Pilgrims. “The messages, sermons and mission resonate for her with their emphasis on social justice and care of the environment. 

“It is what I have been looking for.  I stopped going to church at 18.  Now I’m 23 and enjoy being part of this church community,” she said.

She is working with Greg Turk, All Pilgrims pastor, to develop an intergenerational Young Souls’ Group to meet to bowl, eat or just be together.

Part of the JLP program is also the Sojourning Sundays Workshops, facilitated by the advisors, Elizabeth Dickson and Claire West.

“Workshops call us to do soul searching, to see how our experience is shaping how we are in the world, to be vulnerable to talk about previous relationships impacting us, and to share experiences and challenges,” she said.

It’s what I needed,” said Renee who grew up in Maple Valley.  “I am glad to be involved with a church that believes in a God of compassion.

For information, call 206-929-5950 or email


Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ News © November-December 2017


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