It costs to Discover

Discover Card customers and shareholders are discovering what their money is helping to finance — and many of them aren’t pleased. The VILLAGE VOICE reports that an environmental group is leading a boycott of the Discover Card, whose parent company, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, is helping to sponsor the construction of China’s Three Gorges Dam. According to activists, the dam — scheduled for completion in 2009 — is one of the most socially and ecologically destructive projects in history.

The boycott, led by the International Rivers Network, marks a shift in environmentalist strategy, as protestors have changed their focus from attacking the builders of exploitative third-world industries to pressuring their Western financers. The strategy is proving effective. A Morgan Stanley-shareholder campaign demanding that the company make only socially responsible investments has been gaining steam, as have similar movements within other major investment firms.