On April 17-18, thousands of communities around the world will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. On the California Central Coast, the community of Santa Barbara, together with regional not-for-profit Community Environmental Council, lays claim to sparking the Earth Day movement forty years ago.
This year, 20,000 will gather for Santa Barbara’s Earth Day 40 Festival (www.SBEarthDay.org) on April 17-18. Under the apropos 2010 theme “Bringing It Home,” the celebration recognizes not only Earth Day’s 40th Birthday, but also the community’s own legacy of environmental stewardship.
For four decades, Santa Barbara has harnessed its mindful community members, innovative leaders, and abundant access to renewable energy resources to help lead the environmental movement. Today, with the ongoing support of the Community Environmental Council and its aggressive “Fossil Free by ’33” initiative, the community continues to serve as a model for how to move an entire region away from fossil fuels.
In 1969, the devastating images of a massive oil spill from an oil platform off Santa Barbara’s coast galvanized California into action and caught the attention of the rest of the nation, including Senator Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day. The resulting swell of outrage and concern gave rise to the first Earth Day in 1970, as well as to the creation of the Community Environmental Council – the largest and most established environmental organization in the region, and the host of Santa Barbara’s Earth Day 40 Festival.
Today, the Community Environmental Council (CEC) is leading a campaign to move Santa Barbara County away from fossil fuels in one generation – Fossil Free by ’33. This bold, regionally driven blueprint seeks to head off a nearly perfect storm of energy-related concerns, including rapidly diminishing oil supplies (“peak oil”), growing concern over our national security because of our dependence on foreign oil, volatile fuel prices, and climate change.
The Fossil Free campaign is particularly timely following the climate talks in Copenhagen last December, in which international leaders noted that more than half of the actions needed to address global warming will be led not by national or international policies, but through local initiatives and leadership.
“Copenhagen will likely be a central theme as communities around the world prepare for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day,” says CEC Assistant Director Sigrid Wright, noting that the collective international Earth Day events are expected to touch over a billion people. “We believe that climate change is the responsibility of every community to address and that Santa Barbara and California are out in front on this issue.”
In downtown Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Earth Day 40 Festival will offer real-world solutions, with participation by approximately 250 emerging green businesses, cutting edge technology vendors, and regional and national environmental organizations. Other features will include:
• a two-day amateur Green Shorts Film Festival,
• the largest known private Green Car Show in the country, and
• a Green Home Pavilion – a re-enactment of a 1,200-square foot home, featuring the latest green construction materials, home décor products, and energy-saving appliances and technologies.
“Earth Day brings us together to celebrate, recharge and focus our energies and resources on ending our dependence on fossil fuels,” says Wright.
“This is a pivotal time in history for the environmental movement because for the first time ever, being free of fossil fuels is actually within reach," says Wright. “The CEC and the community of Santa Barbara are committed to reaching this goal by 2033. The region has unique access to renewable energy resources – particularly the sun, wind and ocean. And, as history has shown, the size of the community – small enough change course with relative speed, yet large enough to matter when those changes are made - makes us poised to lead the charge."