Photo credits: @rodlong via Unsplash
Arguably the most accessible sustainable change one can make is becoming more involved with environmental groups and advocacies. A few groups pinned against each other in the larger conversation about conservation deserve to be recognized. The Earth Quaker Action Team, or EQAT, is an organization calling on large energy corporations to think green. One of those organizations includes VanGuard, a mutual fund and also one of the lead investors in oil and gas.
Eve Gutman, the Administrative and Research Assistant at EQAT, wrote to me about the work EQAT does to advocate for environmental affairs.
“From 2015 to 2021, EQAT worked on a campaign calling on PECO to increase local solar energy and invest in green jobs. We brought many new people from across the region into the campaign, forged a deep relationship with POWER Interfaith, and got PECO to take significant steps that have boosted the local solar economy and put some investment in job creation for Black and Brown community members,” said Gutman.
As an organization rooted in climate justice and nonviolence, their more recent changes have been drumming up more support.
“Last year, EQAT discerned that the urgency of the climate crisis was calling us to take on bigger targets, and that it was time to take our skills around nonviolent direct action and use them to pressure PECO’s parent company’s largest investor, Vanguard,” wrote Gutman.
Gutman felt it is very important to add that, “This campaign is not just EQAT’s. Here in southeastern PA, we’re working with various groups — student groups like Fossil Free Penn at the University of Pennsylvania and the Committee for Environmental Responsibility at Haverford College — plus various climate and justice groups like 350 Philly, Elder Action Network, POWER Interfaith, Sierra Club PA chapter, XR Philly and more! And southeastern PA is just one hub of this international campaign.”
Nick Marcil, a graduate student from WCU who is heavily involved in advocacies surrounding climate and student debt crises, shared with me his experience supporting groups such as EQAT. Though he is not a member of EQAT himself, he is a member of The Debt Collective. Marcil said, “…finance and debt play into the climate crisis as well as student loan debt. Before I joined the collective in PA/PHL, [The Debt Collective] actually worked on a campaign with EQAT a little over a year ago.”
When I inquired about the ways each of us can begin to get involved, Marcil mentioned that perhaps the first step is going to a simple meeting.
“If you can meet in person and have these great discussions and talks about the issues and about what actions you need to take, you’re really sort of building power to make change,” said Marcil.
A few people brought a big letter to VanGuard saying they have a climate problem and they need to do something about it. Including the specific actions they should take.
Being that EQAT is a Quaker organization based in nonviolence, the gathering Marcil attended was very cautious and headstrong. Their audience — not so much.
Despite the distance being incredibly short, VanGuard did not seem to bat an eye except for moving the group off their property.
“[Vanguard’s] response was not friendly whatsoever. Basically, the VanGuard campus is located not too far from here…[in Malvern]…we congregated away from the campus to talk and prepare folks for the action itself and make sure folks felt comfortable,” explained Marcil.
“They just want to keep their name, brand, their face out of it. That’s all that it is.”
It is vital to be kept in the loop about what social groups in your communities are leading events that create significant opportunities for advocacy and environmental justice. What is the point of having neighbors and friends if we cannot stand with them for what better serves our earth? As I grew curiouser about the show behind the scenes, Gutman explained to me more about EQAT’s direct action toward VanGuard.
The Vanguard’s Very Big Problem campaign is asking VanGuard to, “…be a more active shareholder for the climate in the companies it invests in, exit its investments in coal companies, and fundamentally shift its investment policy to integrate climate justice into business decisions.”
It is the current goal of EQAT to receive a solid and long overdue plan from VanGuard to get its investments on track to zero emissions by 2050. If you’re looking to get involved with sustainability in more ways, join EQAT for Vanguard’s Big Climate Problem Walk from April 18 to 22. A group will be walking from the industrial banks of the Delaware River to Vanguard’s headquarters in Malvern, pushing for climate justice.
“We need a plan from Vanguard now — we have no time to lose for the climate and for our futures,” said Gutman.
And indeed, our time is measured with the climate crisis. Recently, the latest IPCC report released on April 4 determined that, “unless industrialized nations work to drastically reduce their emissions from coal, oil, and natural gas by 43% within eight years — by 2030 — or limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will likely be out of reach.” Otherwise, we reap an uninhabitable land. How can anyone avoid being an advocate when this affects us all?
Kristine Kearns is a second-year English major with a minor in Creative Writing. KK947319@wcupa.edu