Five days after Isla Vista’s largest beach party to date, the community is still contending with the environmental impact of Floatopia.
Thousands of beer cans, rafts and towels littered the beach for days after an estimated 12,000 people braved the Pacific last Saturday. Bradley Cardinale, a professor of ecology, evolution and marine biology, said the aftermath of Floatopia will likely have a serious impact on the coastal zone — especially if the event continues annually at such a magnitude.
“For a one-time annual event, it’s hard to register the effects,” Cardinale said. “But over and over again each year, there will be major water quality problems.”
Cardinale said he was shocked by the sheer amount of trash left in the water and noted that a significant amount of garbage migrated down the coast toward Goleta Beach.
“I’ve traveled all over the world for my research, and I’ve only seen dumping like this in third world countries. … This extreme amount of pollution and littering in one weekend,” he said.
Additionally, Cardinale said some of the damage cannot be cleaned up or removed from the water.
“You have 12,000 students drinking beer in a small area of coastline and every one of them has to go to the bathroom twice an hour,” he said. “Think how much urine went into our coastal zone — pretty massive amounts. You just don’t clean that up. Sure we can pick up the beer cans, but the other stuff is out there permanently.”
For the students and locals who organized clean-up efforts, Isla Vista beach may as well have been the Augean Stables. Second-year environmental studies major Daniel Carlson helped collect debris as soon as the festivities died down. He said when he and other cleanup groups left at dusk, the beach was still a mess.
“There are still thousands upon thousands upon thousands of beer cans for more than a mile,” he said. “[Clean-up] efforts may have taken care of 20 to 30 percent of trash refuge but the other 70 percent is still out there.”
Despite the ruckus, Cardinale said that he is not necessarily opposed to Floatopia, as long as students are environmentally minded and responsible when organizing the event.
“I think that it would be a great model for UCSB to be a campus that both works hard and plays hard,” he said. “We attract professors, research dollars and students because it is a great place and we love to be outdoors, love to have parties, and I don’t see why we can’t do that without trashing whole coastlines.”
Third district supervisor Doreen Farr said the sheer amount of trash left in the water and littering the beaches seems to contradict UCSB’s claim of environmental mindedness.
“There was a tremendous amount of stuff left on the beach afterwards … shoes, beach towels, rafts, beer bottles, cups, broken glass. … It is really inexcusable,” Farr said. “I know UCSB students are very concerned with the environment, but you can’t compartmentalize that.”
Farr said the county does not currently have a plan for future Floatopias.
“I don’t like the idea of having to come in with more rules and regulations and different things, but the students and people who live in I.V. need to take greater responsibility here for their actions and impact that they have,” she said.