QUAKERS ON EITHER SIDE OF THE ATLANTIC are holding a public act of prayer outside one of the world’s biggest investors in coal today, 7 October.
The Vanguard Group has $7 trillion in global assets, at least $86 billion of which is tied up in coal, along with billions in oil and gas, stakes in deforestation-linked agriculture and military contracts.
Many Quakers are deeply concerned about climate breakdown with four British Quakers among 51 Just Stop Oil protestors remanded to prison last month for refusing to comply with court proceedings.
This week, to mark the 250th anniversary of the death of John Woolman, one of their radical forebears, Quaker environmental group EarthQuakes, will sit in silent worship outside Vanguard’s offices (Walbrook Building, 25 Walbrook, EC4 8AF) in the City of London.at 4.15 pm,
Along with the Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) in the USA, Earthquakes will deliver a letter to Vanguard CEO Tim Buckley, asking one of the most influential men in the world to act courageously on the climate. Under banners reading “We do not own the earth and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will”, they will sing Helen Yeoman’s “Never take away my voice”. American Quakers will hold a simultaneous silent meeting near the Pennsylvania home of the Vanguard CEO.
Eighteenth-century American Quaker John Woolman campaigned for the abolition of slavery, just relationships with indigenous people and the protection of the natural world. He famously warned the rich: “Nature hath a voice”.
EQAT has been campaigning for Vanguard to exit its fossil fuel investments, offer climate-responsible funds as a default and to use its influence to drive climate-friendly action by industry. Last month, eight Quaker climate activists were arrested for protesting outside the company’s Philadelphia HQ. Despite copious green-washing, Vanguard lags far behind on climate action and commitments, according to EQAT.
More than two centuries ago, Woolman, who was a vegetarian, observed: “Conduct is more convincing than language.” Bristol Quaker Julia Bush said: “We are inspired by John Woolman’s amazing record of 18th century faith-led campaigning. He understood that abuse of the natural world is a source of poverty and war, as well as an offence against God’s creation.”
“In his day, John Woolman spoke powerfully about the harm done out of greed, and we are doing the same today. Vanguard has put short-term profit over the well-being of people and the planet, which ultimately hurts us all, including Vanguard customers”, said Eileen Flanagan, co-director of EQAT.