After the 2016 election, I started hearing more new EQAT volunteers asking questions like, “What will this action accomplish?” People seemed to have an increased sense of what was at stake and wanted to use their time well. My answer was, “By itself, this action will accomplish nothing, but in our first campaign, 125 actions together moved a bank that netted $4 billion-a-year.”
I still believe in the cumulative impact of persistent nonviolent direct action. I’ve also come to understand the power of building, whether it is building skills, building connections with new constituencies, or building our willingness to risk. That is a lot of what we’re doing this season. We are building toward a major action at Vanguard’s Pennsylvania headquarters on Wednesday, April 19, and part of our plan to get there is to use smaller actions to pave the way.
That was one of the goals of last week’s A Message from the Future Action. Fifteen of us transported ourselves to 2033 for a future mock press conference outside Vanguard headquarters. Our actors announced a lawsuit filed against Vanguard for the asset managers’ irresponsible business practices and the damages wrought by continuing to invest in climate destruction. Although the script included fictitious names and some humor, the threat is real – to Vanguard as well as the rest of us. Increasingly companies are being sued for their role in climate catastrophe.
On the same day, Vanguard CEO Tim Buckley failed to address climate risk when he spoke at ExchangeETF in Miami — a city jeopardized by rising sea levels. Instead of acknowledging this context, his talk focused on Vanguard’s use of technology, such as an app for customers that is part of Vanguard’s approach to the future. His remarks reinforced the reason we keep showing up, speaking the truth that Vanguard executives are trying to dodge. Our skit was more grounded in reality than his talk to business leaders.
Volunteers consulting and sharing skills in action. Photo Eileen Flanagan
Our action that morning was also an opportunity for volunteers to expand their skills and experience, with some shadowing the roles of Action Lead and Police Liaison for the first time. We will continue to hold small actions that emphasize skill-building, as well as more trainings, since our April plans will involve more people stepping into leadership. Over the next several weeks, we will also be engaging in spiritual preparation, including some activities that you can join regardless of your location. So stay tuned for those! In the meantime, please RSVP to get updates on April 19 Escalation!
Together we can build the pressure needed to steer Vanguard in a new direction.