Earth Day History in Santa Barbara

Earth Day is celebrated worldwide on April 22 and has ushered in promising legislation throughout the globe for Mother Earth. Although for Santa Barbarans, Earth Day means much more.

For those who have lived here long enough, 1969 was the year everyone became intimately aware of human’s effect on the environment. On January 28, a well drilled by Union Oil Platform A off the coast blew out. More than three million gallons of oil spewed, killing over 10,000 seabirds, dolphins, seals, and sea lions.

Local activists banned together to create environmental regulation, education, and in effect, Earth Day. That’s right, in case you didn’t know, Earth Day was founded in Santa Barbara. We have Selma Rubin, Marc McGinnes, Bud Bottoms, and many more to thank for this.

On the first anniversary of the oil spill, January 28, 1970, Environmental Rights Day was celebrated locally. A Declaration of Environmental Rights was written by Rod Nash during a boat trip across the Santa Barbara Channel while carrying a copy of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. Many activists and local politicians spoke during the event that drew a giant and passionate crowd ready to enact change.

Oil spill protest at UC Santa Barbara (file photo)

Environmental Rights Day organizers had been working closely with then-Congressman Pete McCloskey to consult on the creation of the National Environmental Policy Act, the first of many new environmental protection laws sparked by the oil spill. Wisconsin Senator Gaylor Nelson also founded Earth Day during an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. Local activists also went on to develop the first undergraduate Environmental Studies program of its kind at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Today, Santa Barbara holds to its traditions and continues an annual Earth Day Festival. The Community Environmental Council (CEC) pioneers real-life solutions in areas with the most impact on climate change. CEC’s annual Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival prides itself on making it one of the cleanest, greenest, and most sustainably-minded events around, improving every year.

The Community Environmental Council and CarpEvents will present the Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival 2024 at Alameda Park on Saturday, April 27, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Sunday, April 28, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Learn more at

On top of that, a local business is hosting a fundraiser in honor of Earth Day and its roots in Santa Barbara. Island View Outfitters will donate $5 to local nonprofit Heal the Ocean with every purchase of their Earth Day hat or t-shirt.

Their “Santa Barbara 1970 Earth Day” collection is a tribute to local activism that created a worldwide movement.

This tee was made from 100% organically grown cotton. Printed in Isla Vista with water and algae based inks.

This hat was made from 100% organically grown cotton. Featuring a self-fabric closure with brass slider and hidden tuck-in. Embroidered by Island View Outfitters in Isla Vista. Check out their apparel here.

Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

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