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Recognizing Earth Day

EVELINA ERICKSON

Feature Editor

Volunteers work to clean up the oil on the coast of Santa Barbara, California.  Photo: Santa Barbara Oil Spill 1969 by Ninian Reid. cc by 2.0

    Here is a riddle: You walk all over me in more ways than one, what am I? The answer: Earth. The planet we as humans have lived on for hundreds of thousands of years, yet we treat it worse and worse everyday. 

On January 28th, 1969 sea lions, dolphins, seals, seabirds, and other sea animals were killed by the largest oil spill at the time (today, it is recorded as the third largest). The blowout was caused by poor safety precautions on the company’s behalf, leading the ocean floor to crack and slowly spew oil for many days. Over four million gallons of crude oil spewed into the ocean in Santa Barbara, California. Volunteers and activists helped lessen the damage by cleaning sea animals and spreading straw over the beaches to soak up the oil. Former President Richard Nixon even visited Santa Barbara on March 21,1969 to look at the spill and ongoing recovery. After seeing news and the site of the spill, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day to honor the Earth on April 22, 1970.

That year several organizations were also founded: the CEC (Community Environmental Council), the EDC (Environmental Defense Center, the Environmental Studies Program at UCSB, and the GOO! (Get Oil Out!).

    Since then, Santa Barbara has held an annual Earth Day Festival hosted by the CEC, usually at Alameda Park.

“There were lots of people that we could interact with and there were also activities,” said freshman Rania Afifi about the last time she went to the Earth Day Festival. “I loved to go because I wanted to learn what Earth Day was about and how I could help.”

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the 2021 Earth Day Festival is going to be broadcasted live April 22-24. (You can find the link on their website to watch below.) 

Throughout the years the structure of the Earth Day Festival in Santa Barbara has changed. Originally it was a teach-in event where people could learn about the Earth, its environment, and ways to help. Roughly 20 million people attended the event. Considering the United State’s population was 200 million back then, it means that one in ten people across the country came. Even now that is an amazing amount. An average of 30,000-40,000 people attend today. Along with that, Earth Day has adopted fun activities and live music for entertainment. Environmental activists and leaders speak at Earth Day to educate others as well. 

“As you know, this year we’re virtual so we have three days of programming around the theme of climate leadership with focuses on youth and business and community leadership so, we’re looking to create something for everyone and we have inspirational messages from elected leaders and climate leaders like our environmental hero Annie Lenard,” said Kathi King, the Festival Director of the Santa Barbara’s Earth Day. “And then we have something new this year that we weren’t able to provide last year because it kind of didn’t exist.” 

Ms. King goes on to mention that as part of the Festival this year, there will be a virtual exhibit hall, unlike last year when they just had a show. A bunch of their regular exhibitors that usually go to the park every year, will be given their own page on the website. 

“… people can still connect with them and see what they’re doing and even do live chats with them during their booth hours,” said Kathi King 

The exhibit hall will be taking place throughout the festival, while the interactive exhibitor booth video hours are from 11:00 a.m. to noon and 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. each day of the festival.

San Marcos has hosted a fair of their own on campus. Students in AP Environmental Science got together and made all sorts of demonstrations to teach other students and staff at San Marcos about sustainable, eco-friendly ways to live their life and about important environmental issues. Unfortunately this has not been able to happen since 2018 due to  COVID-19. Still, it is important to take time out of the day to learn about the environment and ways to help.

“I also like to identify one thing I could give up or change in my life that would make my lifestyle more sustainable and take the first steps toward that. But anything that deepens your inspiration to make the world a better place is time well spent!” said Robert Goettler, the AP Environmental Science teacher at San Marcos. 

In the end, Earth is our home and we need to protect it. 

“If you’ve heard of Bill McKibben, he’s a climate leader for many decades and the way he talks about climate change, he says it’s a timed test,” adds Kathi King. “There is a ticking clock on this as we know so we have a limited amount of time to take action, the 2018 IPCC Report said ‘we have until about 2030 to reduce emissions by 50% in order to avoid worse impacts of climate change’.”

Participating in Earth Day is just one way to learn about what you can do to help. It is important to take the time out of our technology busy lives and care for the Earth. Without it, we would not have a home. And remember, everyday is Earth Day.

Additional information: 

Santa Barbara’s Earth Day Website

Mr. Goettler suggests:

“For some specific ideas, definitely check out SustainableFuture.org or talk with the students in the Sustainable Future Club.”

Ms. King suggests: 

“I would love for you to encourage your readers to sign up for our newsletters at CECSB.org,” (CEC’s Website). “All our programs are fully focused on climate change around reversing the impacts by drastically reducing emissions, repairing the emissions that are already up there by pulling them down with nature based solutions like carbon sequestration in the soil and then, also, protecting ourselves from future impacts with energy storage and microgrids that can keep the power on during climate emergencies.”

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