THE SANTA BARBARA OIL SPILL : REFLECTING 50 YEARS LATER: ‘THE OCEAN WAS BOILING’
Environmental activists were greeted like rock stars at a packed Sunday afternoon memorial for the 50th anniversary of the Santa Barbara oil spill. They say time is running out to prevent a global climate catastrophe.
The free community event was sponsored by several groups, including the Environmental Defense Center, UCSB, and Get Oil Out!
UCSB sophomore Rose Strauss, stole the show with an impassioned plea for youth activism in the fight against oil drilling and climate change.
“The spill in 1969 was caused by drilling off the Santa Barbara coast. Tell me why, 50 years later, there is still oil being pumped from the ground a few miles offshore from where we are standing,” said Ms. Strauss.
“Tell me why we are even entertaining the idea of opening up a massive new oil drilling operation 40 minutes north of here,” she added in reference to the proposed Cat Canyon oil drilling project in Santa Maria.
“Money,” murmured the crowd in response.
An October 2018 report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found the world had 12 years to aggressively reduce carbon emissions to ensure the average global temperature does not exceed the pre-industrial temperature by more than 1.5 degrees celsius.
The report says potential risks of that much global warming include marine ice sheet instability in Antarctica and Greenland, flooding and infrastructure damage to small islands and low-lying coastal areas and higher ocean temperatures.
Ms. Strauss says we have 11 years left and counting.
“Failing to meet this deadline is a death sentence for my generation. Although that’s terrifying, that is a weight that every single young person carries with them every day. This is no longer about conserving the environment. This is the fight of our lives for our lives and there is no time to waste,” said Ms. Strauss to thunderous applause and a standing ovation.
During the midterm elections, Ms. Strauss spent time campaigning in Pennsylvania with climate activist group Sunrise Movement. She made national news when Republican candidate for Pennsylvania governor Scott Wagner called her “young and naive,” in response to a question about climate change.
She said the experience made her realize that politicians need to be held accountable on both sides of the isle.
“Republicans and Democrats. They are just not taking the bold stances that we need.”
Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard echoed Ms. Strauss’ concern about the quickly approaching 11-year deadline.
“We don’t have to be totally off fossil fuels in 11 years, but we have to aggressively and viciously at an unprecedented embrace that transition. We have to reduce greenhouse gases by about half by 2030 and by 100 percent by 2050,” said Ms. Leonard.
To do that, Ms. Leonard said, investment in new fossil fuel infrastructure needs to end.
“The reason we’re focusing on fossil fuel is because it avoids a lock into continuous carbon production so that it buys us time. It expands the window of time we have to push those regulatory and market changes that are already happening.”
Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, Environmental Defense Center Chief Counsel Linda Krop, and Community Environmental Council CEO Sigrid Wright made remarks on the anniversary of the oil spill.
Ariana Katovich, Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network director of development, said the event felt like a family reunion of colleagues she’s known for years and community members passionate about conservation.
“When I look around I see all these familiar faces, people I’ve been fighting alongside for years. We’re all in this together.”