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CEC is committed to creating a more resilient and just region in the face of climate change. Through our work with the Central Coast Climate Justice Network and elsewhere, our vision includes an end to racial injustices and their resulting environmental inequities.

Community Environmental Council (CEC), Environmental Defense Center (EDC), Get Oil Out! (GOO!), and UCSB’s Department of Environmental Studies are proud to present “50 Years After the Santa Barbara Oil Spill: A Call to Action,” a FREE community event on Sunday, January 27, 2019 from 2:00 PM –  5:30 PM at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara that will tap into the activist spirit catalyzed by the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill and rally the community to band together for immediate action in the face of current climate and environmental crises.

Free tickets to 50 Years After the Santa Barbara Oil Spill: A Call to Action” can be obtained in advance at the Arlington Theatre box office, 1317 State St, Santa Barbara, CA, 93101, or by reserving tickets online at

Download the flyer here.

Attendees are encouraged to arrive at 2:00 PM for an hour of taking action with environmental groups through participation in petitions, personal letters to representatives, and making commitments to reduce personal carbon footprints.

The program, which will offer Spanish language interpretation, begins at 3:00 PM and includes:

  • Special guest speakers, including keynote by Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard; and comments by national Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune; California State Senator  Hannah Beth Jackson; U.S. Congressman Salud Carbajal; Sunrise Movement/UCSB student climate activist Rose Strauss; and local environmental leaders.
  • Energizing music line up including Zach Gill (of Jack Johnson’s band and ALO), Glen Phillips (formerly of Toad the Wet Sprocket), No Simple Highway (Grateful Dead tribute band), Soul Majestic, and other special guests.
  • Unveiling of new Declaration of Environmental Rights, updated from original created in Santa Barbara in 1970.
  • Presentation of an award in memoriam of local activist and artist Bud Bottoms.

“Our movement of grassroots activists was born out of the oil spill, which united our community in a common effort to address the impacts of offshore oil drilling and to protect our coastline from dirty fossil fuels,” stated Carla Frisk of Get Oil Out! “Today, 50 years later, we are working for a future where we’ll power our communities on 100% renewable energy. But until then, we’ll continue to mobilize to get oil out!”

Building on this message, CEC CEO/Executive Director Sigrid Wright noted: “Society has experienced time and again how drilling, transporting and burning oil threatens the places we love,” observing a parallel between the oil spill crisis in 1969 and recent increases in cyclic drought, fire and floods that have impacted the Central Coast. “We do not need to be sacrificing our oceans and lands or putting ourselves at risk for further climate-related disasters in the name of progress. Fortunately in the last decade, our region and many others have shown that it’s possible to move toward becoming a post-oil world, where we rely primarily on carbon-free energy, shift to electric vehicles, and reduce the use of disposable oil-based plastic products.”

The 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill is widely acknowledged as ushering in the birth of the modern environmental movement. The late environmentalist Selma Rubin coined it as “the oil spill heard round the world.” At the time of the Santa Barbara Oil Spill, it was the largest oil spill in U.S. waters, spewing more than three million gallons of oil and killing over 10,000 seabirds, dolphins, seals, and sea lions. Today it ranks third in size after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon and 1989 Exxon Valdez spills.

After seeing the spill in person, President Richard Nixon said it had “touched the conscience of the American people” and Senator Gaylord Nelson led a bipartisan effort to establish a national day of environmental education, Earth Day. The spill and its profound implications also led to national policy frameworks – including the Environmental Protection Agency (1970), the Clean Water Act (1972), Coastal Zone Management Act (1972), and Endangered Species Act (1973) – and globally to new branches of academic study, new language, and widespread grassroots action. Locally, this included the formation of the four groups organizing the 50th celebration.

Part of the group’s efforts to look forward from this event include developing a newly updated Declaration of Environmental Rights. The Declaration, originally published on January 28, 1970, one year after the oil spill, was authored by Rod Nash, who along with others founded a first of its kind program at UCSB that year titled “Environmental Studies.”

The new revision is being created out of a participatory process with an array of regional groups led by current UCSB Environmental Studies Department Chair, David Pellow, who stated,  “Our work on the Declaration actively seeks to incorporate perspectives of diverse community members and stakeholders. In the next chapter of the environmental movement, we stand committed to engaging those who have been disproportionately burdened by social injustices – women, youth, immigrants, the elderly, people of color, and those with low-income who have fewer resources to respond to the negative impacts of climate change and other environmental threats. The next 50 years will see our movements and our learning institutions here in Santa Barbara fostering environmental and climate justice.”

Linda Krop, Lead Attorney for EDC, notes that this milestone also provides an opportunity to reflect on the strong bipartisan leadership behind the environmental legacy. “In the 1970s, both sides of the aisle were acutely aware of our responsibility to protect the environmental systems on which all life depends. Acts to ensure clean air and clean water passed, almost unanimously at times. We are calling for a similar unified approach as we look to protect another critical system – our climate.”

Krop continued, “Even as we remember this history, we must stand vigilant to protect our coastline from new present threats of offshore oil exploration. Fortunately, our community and the state of California stand together, and at this event we’ll share concrete actions we can take in the next few months to safeguard our coastline.”

U.S. Congressman Salud Carbajal, originally of Oxnard, CA, expanded on Krop’s points: “With unrelenting attacks on our environment and natural resources by the Trump Administration, it is more important than ever to make it clear that we will not accept further oil leasing and development off our shores.”  Referencing the more recent 2015 Plains All American Pipeline spill off the Refugio Coast, Carbajal stated, “In California, our coastal communities, local economies, and fragile ocean ecosystems cannot afford another disastrous oil spill. That is why it is critical that we pass legislation to protect our coastal environment from further oil drilling and preserve its beauty and vibrancy for future generations.”

The event on January 27 will kick off two years of Golden Anniversaries in Santa Barbara; 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the UCSB Environmental Studies Program, the CEC, and the formation of Earth Day.

In conjunction with the event, the UCSB Library is opening an exhibit that will examine connections between the Santa Barbara oil spill and local environmental activism. Titled “Anguish, Anger, and Activism: Legacies of the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill,” the exhibit will be on display in Special Research Collections on the 3rd floor of the library, mountain side,  January 28 through Spring Quarter, 2019.

Major sponsors for the event are Lisa Stratton, Jean Schuyler and  Peter Schuyler, Leslie Sweem Bhutani and Ashish Bhutani, the Richard and Bonnie Jensen Family, Monica and Tim Babich and an anonymous benefactor.

Click here for a history of the oil spill and Earth Day, as well as archival photos and other articles about the 1969 spill.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. I’m trying to locate a photo taken at Leadbetter Beach during then Pres Nixons visit it is a pic of a child holding a sign saying “GOO” (Get Oil Out). It is my daughter Karyn holding the sign. It was picked up by UPI but I have lost my copy. Any ideas ? My pleas have been in vain.

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