Earth Day Festival does not reflect its eco friendly image

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

SAMI SOTO, Channels Staff

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This year’s theme for the Earth Day Festival this past weekend in Alameda Park was “One World, One Climate, One Step at a Time.” Despite the city’s devotion to celebrating Earth Day, Santa Barbara is many steps behind when it comes to being ecofriendly.

Santa Barbara is where Earth Day all started. In 1969 after a major oil spill off the coast, citizens rallied together to promote environmental change. As a result the Community Environmental Council was formed in 1970. The devastating aftermath of the estimated 80,000 spilt barrels of oil caught the attention of former Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, who passed legislation to make Earth Day annually April 22.

Each year, visitors flock to our humble abode to celebrate the earth. This year the two-day festival included a bike valet, beer garden and green car show. But what happens after the festivities are over? Does the motivation to change our environmentally damaging ways end, only to return next year?

On April 18, Melinda Burns wrote an article in The Independent titled “San Ysidro Ranch Racks Up Penalties for High Water Use.” The five star hotel in Santa Barbara exceeded the regulated amount of water it could in use 19 out of the past 24 months. Aside from hefty penalties accumulating to over $250,000, there have been no repercussions for the hotel.

This doesn’t reflect a good light on the city that pioneered Earth Day. No longer should Santa Barbara rely on the idea of El Niño; national weather forecasts predict above average temperatures along the coast for the next three months.

On top of this, Beach City, an apartment complex adjacent to City College, recently got fined for zoning violations. One of the violations was the removal of 32 Eucalyptus trees that were populated by endangered Monarch butterflies. The owners of Beach City, St. George and Associates, replaced the Eucalyptuses with young palm trees.

Is trying to adhere to Santa Barbara’s charming collection of palm trees more important than saving the Monarch butterflies?

Coincidentally, kids had the opportunity to create butterfly wings at the festival. Also, there was a “Kids Monarch March” led by environmental crusader, Snook the Eco-Sloth. Unfortunately the march did not end with butterfly wing bearing children at Beach City in protest.

Granted, Santa Barbara is taking crucial steps to improve the local environment. Santa Barbara City Council voted back in July 2015 to reactivate the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Facility. Furthermore, the city Planning Commission is proposing that Beach City replace the new palm trees with Cypress trees and milkweed in order to restore the Monarch butterfly habitat.

In addition to these advancements, everyone can make daily changes to better the environment. Within City College fees, every student pays $30 for a semester long bus pass. Utilizing public transportation is better not only for the environment but student’s wallets as well.

Santa Barbara is a beautiful place for bike riding as well. And not to mention that bike riders are treated to a bike valet every year at the Earth Day Festival.

As citizens of this gorgeous town that pioneered this important environmental holiday, we need to live up to our eco-conscious appearance.

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