Forty years ago an oil spill off the coast of Summerland sparked the modern environmental movement, and local residents kept the spirit alive Saturday during Isla Vista’s Earth Day Festival.

The annual event – which traditionally happens a week prior to the internationally recognized Earth Day on April 22 – brought together several hundred revelers to celebrate the planet in Anisq’ Oyo’ Park. Organized by the Associated Students Environmental Affairs Board, the Earth Day Festival offered attendees an afternoon full of earth friendly shopping and entertainment, and also featured a lineup of eight bands from across the state.

Faris Shalan, who helped organize the event, said that the festival was not just a call to activism, but also a celebration of the natural world.

“The hope is for greater awareness of environmental issues, and more so just a celebration,” Shalan, a third-year environmental studies major, said. “There’s plenty of activism, and then there’s the fun part of activism.”

With recycling bins littering the park, vendors offered a wide variety of earth friendly goods ranging from the sale of towels recovered from the wreckage of Floatopia to fresh produce grown at and provided by the UCSB Greenhouse and Garden Project.

While Earth Day is celebrated around the world, Isla Vista and the greater Santa Barbara area have a special claim to the day, which first occurred in response to the 1969 oil spill. As Shalan noted, the spill is widely regarded as a catalyst of the modern environmental movement.

“It makes sense that Santa Barbara would celebrate Earth Day in such a big way,” Shalan said. “Several student initiatives have started since [the oil spill].”
Ultimately, though, the day was about having a good time, Kelsey Tayne, a first-year communications major said.

“It’s a really fun time here with the community coming together and putting environmental ideas and teachings into action,” Tayne said. “I hope it inspires people to act more.”

In addition to the festivities, many students were there to push for a new general education requirement on the environment. According to Katie Maynard, the Sustainability Coordinator for UCSB, EAB used the festival to plug the proposed GE and had collected nearly 500 signatures by the end of the day.

“One of the things we’re hoping for this year is [to gather] as many signatures as possible to show that students are behind environmental courses,” Maynard said.
If successful with their petition, the proposal would go before the Academic Senate. If approved, all incoming freshman would be required to take at least one environmentally-based class as a part of their general curriculum at UCSB.