Chuck Spanger, left, Tom Mikulka and Dale Gowen of Third Act Maine demonstrate last month at the Chase bank branch in Yarmouth. They were among about a dozen at the demonstration who called for Chase to stop financing the fossil fuel industry. Mikayla Patel / The Forecaster

Retiree Bill Rixon spends his weekdays in front of L.L.Bean’s corporate offices in Freeport and outside Chase Bank in Yarmouth. Weekends, he’s on the sidewalk in front of the L.L.Bean store. At each place, he and other retirees hold signs of protest against big banks’ investments in fossil fuels.

Rixon is a member of Third Act Maine, a 2-year-old chapter of a national organization that mobilizes people over age 60 to use their time to stand up against the climate crisis. The chapter has 817 people on its mailing list and usually more than a dozen turn out for the daily protests.

A retired school teacher and Freeport resident, Rixon got involved with the group this past summer but has been engaged in environmental work and activism for many years, including taking part in peace marches on Washington during the Vietnam War.

“We’d like to bring attention to the banks that are financing new fossil fuel infrastructure,” Rixon said. “The banks are the ones that are financing the fossil fuel industry.”

Third Act Maine’s mobilization has focused on Chase’s and Citibanks’ investments in fossil fuels, and L.L.Bean’s partnership with Citibank for the retailer’s Bean Bucks Mastercard program. This Saturday, they plan to demonstrate outside Costco in Scarborough at 12:30 p.m. to protest its use of the Citibank credit card.

Bill Rixon, left, Molly Schen and Kathleen Sullivan demonstrate outside L.L.Bean’s flagship store on Black Friday. Luna Soley / The Times Record

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, JPMorgan Chase has provided more than $382 billion in financing for fossil fuel companies since the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015. The Banking on Climate Crisis environmental group reported that within that same time, Citibank has provided $333 billion to the fossil fuel industry.


“We don’t know how our actions will affect things, but it’s important to be out there and forming community around this issue,” Rixon said. “Being out there on the sidewalk, I’ve found, is really good for my soul.”

Part of the idea behind the group, he said, is that retirees are in a better position to put themselves at risk of arrest.

“We don’t have to worry about our employment record being sullied by being arrested,” Rixon said, though the group has no intention or expectation of being arrested.

“The goal is to hopefully urge corporations to do the right thing,” he said.

Retired psychotherapist Kathleen Sullivan of Freeport was a catalyst in starting the Third Act chapter in Maine. She said she was fully awakened to the urgency of the climate crisis and the need to take immediate action during the 2020 California wildfires.

“We have a moral responsibility to use our talents, skills and time to do something,” said Sullivan, who is also a member of Freeport Climate Action now. “It’s irresponsible for us to leave it up to the younger people – I think that’s morally wrong.”


Targeting fossil fuel companies and the banks that finance them is vital to lessening the effects of the climate crisis, she said, and the companies won’t stop without a lot of pressure.

Bill Rixon demonstrates at the L.L.Bean store in October. Luna Soley / The Times Record

“They have absolutely no conscience, so we need to be their conscience,” she said. “All they care about is money.”

Oil companies over the years have found new ways of shirking responsibility for the climate crisis, she said, such as pushing the idea of reducing individual carbon footprints, without considering larger factors at play like oil and gas.

Sullivan is angry about that, she said, and  “anger is a really good motivator for getting people out on the streets.”

Tom Mikulka and his wife Kathy helped found the Maine chapter of Third Act two years ago. He said that because older people control most of the country’s wealth, mobilizing that demographic can have a large economic impact.

After the group’s first time tabling at the Common Ground Fair, Mikulka said, they walked away discouraged at how many people were unwilling to engage with the idea of changing their banks or credit cards because of the companies’ investment in fossil fuels.


“My generation rode the oil wave and embraced plastic,” said Mikulka, a Cape Elizabeth resident and retired industrial hygienist. “We’re responsible for this and, unfortunately, too many people in my generation think that changing a credit card is too much.”

The national Third Act organization eventually pivoted their strategy from encouraging people to switch banks, to shaming and calling out the banks themselves, he said.

“The banks and oil companies have so much more impact on climate change than individuals will ever have,” Mikulka said.

Mikulka and his wife have been involved with activist groups in Portland since the 70s, when they participated in United Farmworkers of America boycotts. They picketed outside Shaw’s to discourage shoppers from buying non-union produce.

“That was an economic boycott, and it worked,” he said, and that gives him hope that companies and people will divest from the fossil fuel industry.

Third Act Maine co-founder Chuck Spanger of Scarborough previously worked with Mikulka as part of Elders for Future Generations. Many of those participating in Third Act Maine “have been lifelong activists, so there’s a lot of history and experience,” he said.


The group is also a way of continuing to stay involved with one’s community, he said.

“To me it seems sad when people retire and do nothing, and have little engagement with society,” he said. “That’s really unfortunate.”

“It’s important that elders engage in the advancement of our society,” he said.

Spanger said many people do not realize the harm that fossil fuel companies are causing to the planet, and how much large banks contribute. “Fossil fuels are going to be the end of all of us if not stopped,” he said. “If you have an account with (Chase Bank or Citi Bank), you are contributing to the fossil fuel industry.”

He said he’s often inspired by the energy he sees from young people. “It totally amazes me the capacity of younger people,” he said. “They want fossil fuels to be curtailed so they can have a future that they can thrive in.”

When it comes to fighting climate change, Mikulka said, “the progress is very hard to measure, but we persist.”


Comments are not available on this story.