CEC Names 2023 Santa Barbara Earth Day Environmental Hero Awards

By the Community Environmental Council

The Community Environmental Council (CEC) proudly announces the recipients of its 2023 Santa Barbara Earth Day Environmental Hero Awards. CEC will honor Nalleli Cobo and Cesar Aguirre, who both work tirelessly in their communities to combat the devastating effects of the fossil fuel industry. The awards ceremony will be emceed by past Environmental Hero Award recipient Florencia Ramirez, kitchen activist, podcaster, and author of “How to Eat Less Water.”

Activists like Cobo and Aguirre have dedicated their lives to making an impact on climate change and set an example for people across California. Their activism lights the way for communities everywhere. The ceremony will take place on Saturday, April 30 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on the main stage in Alameda Park.Both awardees will be on stage to accept their awards. 

“The Community Environmental Council is dedicated to activating and inspiring community members of all kinds in the climate justice movement,” said CEC’s CEO Sigrid Wright. “This year’s recipients of the Environmental Hero Award embody what it means to be an advocate for community health, resilience, and a more just future. Their passion and commitment is humbling and we are honored to celebrate them at this year’s Earth Day celebration.”

In March of 2020, at the age of 19, Cobo led a grassroots campaign to permanently shut down a toxic oil drilling site that was causing significant health issues in her Los Angeles community. Her success in raising awareness about the health impacts of urban oil extraction has yielded major policy movements in Los Angeles, which included the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voting unanimously to ban new oil exploration and phase out existing sites. Among many accomplishments,  she co-founded People not Pozos, a nonprofit that aims to secure a safe and healthy environment for the community of South LA by educating, empowering, and working in unison with community members, and the South Central Youth Leadership Coalition, which focuses on environmental racism in the community. Aguirre is the Oil and Gas Director for the Central California Environmental Justice Network (CCEJN). At CCEJN he works throughout Kern County helping fenceline communities affected by oil, gas and pesticides understand how to protect themselves from these sources of pollution and how to advocate for systemic changes that prioritize their health. He tirelessly canvasses in communities to gather testimonies to present in front of the California Air Resources Board and at gatherings throughout Fresno and Sacramento. Aguirre is also a co-founder of the Youth vs. Big Oil statewide coalition.

This year’s awardees join an esteemed list of previous Environmental Heroes, including: Executive Director of Greenpeace USA Annie Leonard; “Drawdown” author and environmental pioneer Paul Hawken; U.S. Congress members Lois Capps and Salud Carbajal; “The OMD Plan: Swap One Meal a Day to Save your Health and Save the Planet” author Suzy Amis Cameron and director James Cameron; Marcus Eriksen of 5 Gyres; 350.org founder Bill McKibben; science educator Bill Nye; and activist/actress Daryl Hannah.

About Nalleli Cobo: Nalleli Cobo, 22, grew up in South Los Angeles and launched her activism as a 9-year-old after noticing foul smells emanating from the oil well across the street from her home. Over the years, she endured headaches, nosebleeds, and heart palpitations caused by pollution from the well. She began attending meetings and rallies with her mother and, at the age of 9, gave her first public speech on the issue. Even as a child, her skills as an orator caught others’ attention and paved the way for her to eventually become the leading spokesperson for banning oil extraction in Los Angeles. She co-founded People not Pozos, which aims to secure a safe and healthy neighborhood, and the South Central Youth Leadership Coalition, which focuses on environmental racism in the community.  In March 2020, Nalleli’s tireless organizing culminated in the definitive closure of the AllenCo drilling site across the street from her childhood home. In addition, thanks to her work, AllenCo executives are facing over 24 criminal charges for environmental health and safety violations. Moreover, Nalleli’s leadership spurred preliminary votes in the City Council in favor of banning oil extraction in the city in 2020. She was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 19. After three surgeries and medical treatment, she was declared cancer-free but cannot have children as a result of her illness. In the end, Nalleli led a citizens’ movement that shut down an oil drilling site and initiated the process to phase out the largest urban oil field in the US.

About Cesar Aguirre: As a child in a family of migrant farm workers who turned into community organizers, Cesar Aguirre was introduced to community organizing and advocacy at an early age. Since starting with  CCEJN, Cesar works in rural communities in Kern County helping fenceline communities affected by oil and gas and pesticides understand how to protect themselves from these sources of pollution and how to advocate for systemic changes that prioritize their health. Cesar has participated in multiple projects (i.e. Arvin Air Quality; I.M.P.R.O.V.E) where he has trained residents on how fracking and other activities related to the oil and gas industry are negatively impacting their neighborhoods. He has also trained community members on the collection of data using PM monitors and bucket samples.

About Florencia Ramirez: Experts predict two-thirds of people living on this planet in 2030 will experience water scarcity, a situation expected to result in the deaths of millions and an unprecedented rise in military conflicts. Can we as individuals hope to have any effect on the global scale of water misuse? Yes, we can make a significant difference–with our food choices–learned author and activist Florencia Ramirez as she traveled across the nation to interview farmers and food producers. Tracing Ramirez’s tour of American water sustainable farms–from rice paddies in Cajun Louisiana to a Hawaiian coffee farm to a Boston chocolate factory and beyond–“Eat Less Water” tells the story of water served on our plates: an eye-opening account of the under-appreciated environmental threat of water scarcity, a useful cookbook with water-sustainable recipes accompanying each chapter, and  fascinating personal narrative that will teach the reader how they, too, can eat less water. In addition to being an author, and podcast host, Florencia is a trained researcher at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, activist, educator, and mother.

Current Earth Day sponsors include: Audi Santa Barbara, Brighten Solar Co., Bunnin Chevrolet, Bye Bye Mattress, Central Coast Clean Cities Coalition (C5),  Central Coast Community Energy, City of Santa Barbara,Cox Communications, Draughtsmen Aleworks, E-bikery, Edhat, Grid Alternatives, Hope Ranch Living, Jeep & Chrysler of Santa Barbara, KJEE, Matilija Pure Water Systems, MarBorg Industries, McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, Noozhawk, Pacific Coast Business Times, Polestar Los Angeles, Radio Lazer, Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District (APCD), Santa Barbara County Food Action Network (SBCFAN), Santa Barbara City College Foundation, Santa Barbara Independent, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Foundation, Sunkissed Pantry, Tri-County Regional Energy Network (3-C REN), Trinity Episcopal Church’s Justice and Outreach Council, Ventura Volkswagen, Voice Magazine.

Earth Day production partners, who contribute their time and expertise to produce the event, include: Central Coast Clean Cities Coalition (C5), Central Coast Climate Justice Network, Cultivate Events, Downtown Organization, Explore Ecology, Last Chance Alliance, LOACOM, Learningden Preschool, MOVE Santa Barbara County, Oniracom, Pharos Creative, and Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District, Santa Barbara Independent.

About Santa Barbara’s Earth Day: Widely acknowledged as the birthplace of Earth Day, Santa Barbara’s involvement began with the devastating 1969 oil spill off its coast. This led a local group of concerned citizens to begin discussing a different way of looking at environmental systems. During that time, Senator Gaylord Nelson visited Santa Barbara to view the oil spill damage. When he returned to Washington, D.C., he introduced a bill designating April 22 as a national day to celebrate the earth. Over the next few years, the environmental movement was born across the country – including the Community Environmental Council (CEC). Led by a group of forward-thinking youth and elders, CEC incorporated in the spring of 1970 and its first act as a new nonprofit was to hold an Earth Day celebration – a one block long teach-in between State St. and Chapala St. along Anapamu. Around the country, 20 million concerned citizens attended similar events. We recognize that “every day is earth day” and that special events like this are a way to bring diverse voices from our community together as a reminder to tread lightly on the planet. 

For up-to-the-minute information on CEC’s Earth Day 2023:

• Find Earth Day on the web at SBEarthDay.org 

• Like “Santa Barbara Earth Day” on Facebook.com/SBEarthDay 

• Follow the event on Twitter @SBEarthday and on Instagram @SB_EarthDay 

About the Community Environmental Council (CEC): The Community Environmental Council (CEC) advances rapid and equitable solutions to the climate crisis – including ambitious zero carbon goals, drawdown of excess carbon, and protection against the impacts of climate change. CEC was recognized as a 2020 California Nonprofit of the Year and a City of Santa Barbara Climate Hero, and is led by CEO Sigrid Wright who was recently named 2022 Congressional Woman of the Year. CEC has worked since 1970 to incubate and innovate real life environmental solutions that directly affect the California Central Coast. Our programs lead to clean vehicles, solar energy, resilient food systems and reduction of single-use plastic. Learn more about why CEC is one of only five nonprofits in Santa Barbara County to have the highest possible ratings on Charity Navigator and Guidestar at CECSB.org/impact. Find CEC on the web at CECSB.org and on Facebook.com/CECSB, Instagram.com/CEC_SB, Twitter.com/CECSB, and Linkedin.com/company/cecsb/.


Written by Anonymous

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