Reprinted from Mike Malloy Website
President Nixon visited the spill site in March 1969, almost two months after the accident.
(image by (Santa Barbara News-Press, 1969)) DMCA
What were you doing January 28, 1969?
Um, okay, maybe you hadn't been born all those year ago. I had been. In fact, I was in my 20s and living in Tampa, Florida. The television news that night (we had television news only in the evening if you can imagine that) reported on an oil spill off the California coast near Santa Barbara. I had visited Santa Barbara two years before and I remembered that section of coastal California was simply, utterly, breathtakingly beautiful. But, that beauty was about to be annihilated ...
As described a year ago on the climate page at www.thinkprogress.org...
"In the immediate aftermath, thousands of seabirds died, seals and dolphins were poisoned, and kelp forests were devastated as oil up to six inches thick coated 35 miles of coastline along the idyllic, Mediterranean shores of Santa Barbara County. The oil muted the sound of the waves on the beach and the smell of petroleum was pervasive. The only larger oil spills to have happened in the U.S. since are the 1989 Exxon Valdez crash and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster."
I admit to not paying too much -- if any -- attention to the disaster as it was reported. Most of the people I knew and associated with were focused on trying to bring an end to the latest (at the time) example of US/capitalist imperialism and attendant war crimes: Vietnam. That effort sucked all the available oxygen out of every other issue and, consequently, the Santa Barbara horror passed for most politically active young Americans as just another example of corporate malfeasance. Little did we know ...
". . . the only thing they could think to do to clean up the mess was to throw some straw in it to soak up the oil ... here's a multi-billion dollar operation and all they could find to clean it up was straw and kitty litter. Then they picked it up and dumped it in a canyon, and after it rained like hell for the next few days it just came back down to the ocean and returned into the sea.... In the years that followed, the lasting impression of the spill on the public, government officials, and the private sector led to coordinated action unheard of in today's starkly partisan Congress. Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969, which led the way to the July 1970 establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency. The Clean Water Act passed in 1972 and the Endangered Species Act in 1973."
A year or after the disaster itself saw the birth of Earth Day whose conception was in part a reaction to the oil spill.
So, here we are, 45 years later and a cynic -- like me -- might ask, "And, what have we accomplished since then?" It's a question an idealist -- like me -- should avoid asking because of the absolute and total co-option of Earth Day by the same corporations now involved in destroying everything. Everything. Completely.
If the Santa Barbara oil disaster was the starting gun for the race between those who understand the fragility of life and its tenuous hold on this planet and those who care nothing for such an idea -- for whom exploitation and extraction, over-use and environmental destruction, depletion and where the next hole in the earth should be blasted with the anticipated and celebrated short-term profit and no thought to long-term consequences their only concern. If all that is true, then the winner of the race has been determined.
Guess who won?