Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Sep 23rd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Keeping Up With Change

news2_KyleLocal surfer’s activism video continues to make a splash

By Nick Veronin At the beginning of last summer, Kyle Thiermann was already enjoying above average notoriety. The 19-year-old Santa Cruz native is a professional surfer, sponsored by local and national brands. These days, however, he finds himself being stopped on the street for another reason altogether—getting people to switch banks.

“I’ve been recognized before,” Thiermann says. “[But] I’m constantly getting people who now recognize me.”

Back in early July, Thiermann put together a simple Wordpress website and posted a video to YouTube as part of a school project aimed at bringing awareness to a relatively obscure controversy brewing in Constitución, Chile. The focus of Thiermann’s video was a proposed coal-fired power plant, funded in part by Bank of America, which threatened to upset the livelihood of the local community and contaminate the waves just offshore. In the short film, the young wave-rider urged viewers to bank locally. By doing so, individuals would ensure that their money wouldn’t be leveraged to fund projects such as the Constitución plant and would instead likely find its way back into the local community.

After receiving coverage in several Santa Cruz media outlets, Thiermann’s effort kicked into full gear. Before the publication of the Good Times cover story, “Surfing for Change” (9/3/09), Thiermann had documented $40,000 in transfers from multinational banks to local ones. Today he has documented about $10 million in transfers—and that’s just from people who write to him directly through his website. “Claim Your Change” has 4,300 YouTube views.

“I always hoped that it would take off,” he says, “but I definitely didn’t expect it to get to this level.”

Representatives from both Bay Federal Credit Union and Santa Cruz County Bank say customers have opened new accounts as a direct result of hearing about Thiermann’s cause.

Tonée Picard, executive vice president of Bay Federal Credit Union, says that several accounts were opened at her bank after a presentation on local banking hosted by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Thiermann screened “Claim Your Change” at the event and representatives from four Santa Cruz banks spoke about the benefits of keeping one’s money in the immediate community.

“I can’t give you a concrete number, but we definitely saw an increase in the wake of [his] presentation,” Picard says.

“I think it’s great that my project is at least helping the movement [to bank locally],” Thiermann says. “I think it’s becoming more apparent that it’s the right thing to do. It’s kind of like now when you drive a Hummer downtown it can be socially awkward. My hope is that this movement will keep going and more people will wake up to this.”

Rick Hofstetter, president and CEO of Lighthouse Bank, says that he does not know of anyone who has opened an account in his bank solely due to watching Thiermann’s video, but he appreciates the young surfer’s efforts all the same.

“Personally I think it is great,” he says. “I don’t need to be convinced.”

Hofstetter explains that all the money his bank takes in is used nearly exclusively to finance projects in the community, and even if money does leave Santa Cruz County, it doesn’t go far. “A foreign loan for us might go to San Jose,” he says.

Hofstetter is disappointed that so little attention is paid to this issue, but he understands why so many people continue to bank with the large banks. “People don’t really like dealing with the major banks, but they continue to because of the perceived inconvenience” of banking with a smaller bank, he says.

People often cite convenient access to their bank’s ATMs, which allows them to avoid service fees, as a reason for banking with a larger financial institution. But, he points out, since Lighthouse has no ATMs at all, they absorb all convenience fees charged to their customers’ accounts.

“These institutions have been very good at marketing,” Hofstetter explains.

Britney Sheehan, a media relations representative from Bank of America, says that Thiermann’s video is misleading and an oversimplification of issues.

Sheehan insists that Bank of America is committed to environmental initiatives and the development of low-carbon energy sources. “While we invest in renewable and other clean technologies,” she says, “the fact remains that for the time being, fossil fuels, and coal in particular, will continue to supply a significant amount of the energy needed to power society.”

The power plant in Constitución is still moving forward toward construction.

Thiermann does not agree with Sheehan’s argument. “I think that Bank of America doesn’t have a vested interest in the country and the local community doing well, because they aren’t based in that community,” he says. “Local banks do have a vested interest in the communities they serve. That’s the message I want people to take from my video.”

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past

 

The Peace Equation

Sunday is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, a global peace-building day when nations, leaders, governments, communities and individuals are invited to end conflict, cease hostilities, creat 24 hours of non-violence and promote goodwill. Monday is Autumn equinox as the Sun enters Libra (right relations with all of life). The Soul Year now begins. We work in the dark part of the year (Persephone underground) preparing for the new light of winter solstice. Tuesday to Wednesday is the Virgo new moon festival. We know two things about peace. “The absence of war does not signify peace.” And “Peace is an ongoing process.” In its peace-building emphasis, the UNIDP, through education, attempts to create a “culture of peace, understanding and tolerance”. Esoterically we are reminded of the peace equation: “Intentions for goodwill (and acting upon this intention) create right relations with all earth’s kingdoms which create (the ongoing process of) peace on earth.” At noon on Sunday, in all time zones, millions of participating groups will observe a moment of silence for peace on earth. Bells will ring, candles will be lit, and doves released as the New Group of World Servers recite the Great Invocation (humanity’s mantram of direction). To connect with others around the world see www.cultureofpeace.org    Let us join together with the mother (Virgo). Goodwill to all, let peace prevail on earth. The dove is the symbol for the day.
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.