By Hallie Beyer
Students, activists, non-governmental organization leaders, politicians and other community members filled 2,000 seats at the Arlington Theatre as they gathered for the “50 Years After the Santa Barbara Oil Spill: A Call to Action” event Jan. 27.
The event was in commemoration of the tragedy that devastated the Central Coast’s communities, marine animals and wildlife when more than 4 million gallons of oil flowed from Platform A’s ruptured pipeline into the Santa Barbara Channel. But the Sunday event was also a celebration of all the accomplishments that were achieved during the environmental movement that was sparked by the catastrophe.
In the face of climate change, environmental leaders are rallying the community to spark another environmental movement to take aggressive action against the proposed expansion of off-shore oil drilling.
The event featured a range of speakers from politicians, ranging from Congressman Salud Carbajal and state Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, to student and non-governmental organization activists, to chief executives of leading environmental organizations such as the Environmental Defense Center and Community Environmental Council, Get Oil Out and the Sierra Club.
The keynote speaker of the event was Annie Leonard, Greenpeace USA executive director and author of the best-seller “The Story of Stuff.” Each speaker brought a new perspective to the table, but they all shared the dominant message of, “We can do better.”
In 2015, Santa Barbara experienced another oil spill when a crude oil pipeline burst near Refugio Beach, spilling more than 150,000 gallons of oil that would wash up on shores all the way to Manhattan Beach.
Santa Barbara’s economy is largely based on the environment, with its beautiful coastline drawing in business and tourism. Environmentalists say the 23 oil platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel still pose a huge threat to not only marine life ecosystems, but also the community and its tourism-based economy.
Leonard closed the event with an inspiring message calling on community members to be hopeful in the strength of their numbers and to be encouraged by the growth of new green business allies and elected officials who are fighting for clean, renewable energy sources.