Reflections on the Vanguard's Big Climate Problem Walk

Over the course of the five days and forty miles, 300 people joined us on the Vanguard's Big Climate Problem Walk. In the month since, we've been integrating what we learned on the walk and using that time together to energize us for the next chapter of the Vanguard S.O.S. campaign. We're happy to share the reflections of two of our walk participants, Marcelle and JJ, below.

Upcoming Celebration and Action!

The Vanguard’s Big Climate Problem Walk may be over, but getting Vanguard to solve its climate problem will be a marathon, not a sprint. That’s why we’ve been strategizing next steps, even as we rest and recover from the five-day walk. We are excited to share two upcoming opportunities to engage–a party and an action!

What a week it was!

The Vanguard’s Big Climate Problem Walk ended on Earth Day with a crowd of 150 people singing, “We are young and old together,” as 16 risked arrest to challenge Vanguard’s inaction on climate change. Some wore life preservers to symbolize the fact that some people have more protection than others from the effects of rising seas. Others prayerfully read about places where people are especially vulnerable to climate chaos. They highlighted places where people are fighting back against companies that Vanguard invests in: Chevron in the Amazon Rainforest, Exxon and Formosa in Louisiana, Enbridge in Ojibwe territory, to name just a few.

Ways to connect, whether you're walking or not

The Vanguard’s Big Climate Problem Walk began yesterday morning at the Covanta plant in Chester, where Chester residents spoke powerfully about the impact of Vanguard investments on their community. Speakers from Chester and from EQAT affirmed the connections between us and our campaigns and set off together with a song. It was a beautiful beginning with much more ahead. If you are able to make it to the final action in Malvern this Friday, we hope you will register here to get the details, including about the training Thursday night if you are considering risking arrest.

Taking Action, as the IPCC Urges

Perhaps like you, I’ve been reading about the recent IPCC climate change report. Some news stories have emphasized encouraging signs, like the decreasing cost of clean energy. Others stress how much suffering will occur if we don’t change more dramatically and quickly. “Stopping Climate Change is Doable, but Time is Short,” concluded one New York Times headline. My reaction to this news? Gratitude that I have a five-day walk to help organize.

Vanguard Investments' Points of Destruction

Over the years, I encountered so many positive references to INVESTING in our communities, in our infrastructure, in our future, in research, in our children, etc. that I developed a vague, unreflective feeling of trust in the corporations that handle investments in our economy.  Then EQAT organized a "points of destruction" tour of some of the local investments of one of the biggest investors of all -- the Vanguard Group, which has invested some $8 trillion on behalf of the owners of its mutual funds.

So many ways to take action!

One of the great things about being part of a global campaign is that we can use many types of strategies simultaneously. While EQAT primarily uses nonviolent direct action to pressure Vanguard, others can organize petitions, phone calls, and letter writing. The combination will make Vanguard especially nervous. That’s why we’re excited that our partners at the Sunrise Project are launching, a platform to educate and organize retail customers–whether they are invested with Vanguard, BlackRock, Fidelity, or other large asset managers.

Vanguard's announcement on Ukraine, plus what we're up to

I know many of us are following the grim news from Ukraine. Many are pointing out the role that fossil fuels play in enabling brutal regimes, not only in Russia, but in countries that are US allies, like Saudi Arabia. Many are pointing out the role the US has itself played in wars for oil and calling for less reliance on fossil fuels overall–for our communities and climate, but also for world peace. This situation has led to an interesting moment in our campaign. Yesterday, Vanguard announced that it is suspending purchases of Russian securities and is “actively working to further reduce our exposure to Russia and exit the positions across our index funds.”

February Action Opportunities

I’ve known for years that the pollution of local communities and the disruption of the climate we all share are fundamentally connected. It’s often the same industries that do both. I’ve also known that profit drives this destructive system. Still, researching the role of Vanguard’s investments in southeastern Pennsylvania, the region where I’ve lived most of my life, is making these connections even more stark.

What we are up to in 2022

As 2022 begins, EQAT is preparing for a year of action. We know action is what’s needed to address the urgency of the climate crisis, even as we work to keep ourselves and each other safe from Covid. Read on for our next steps and news from the larger movement that puts our work in an encouraging perspective.