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.
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.
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.
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 FixMyFunds.org, a platform to educate and organize retail customers–whether they are invested with Vanguard, BlackRock, Fidelity, or other large asset managers.
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.”
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.
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.
For the next five months, EQAT and the Philly network will be using creative actions and social media to highlight the harm Vanguard investments are doing in our region and beyond.
A new campaign is a time of change, and that applies to our staff. As EQAT says goodbye to Tab Skervin as staff, we welcome Eileen Flanagan to a new role.
Last Friday, as people in 26 countries across the globe took action targeting banks, insurers, and investors, we showed up at Vanguard’s headquarters to tell the company, “Defund climate chaos!”