“Santa Barbara Declaration of Environmental Rights,” 1970

On January 28, 1969, an oil well blew out in the Santa Barbara channel. President Richard Nixon had just been inaugurated one week earlier and the oil spill, widely covered in the media including on television, helped frame a growing political concern about a perceived environmental crisis in the United States and the world. In Santa Barbara itself, environmental activists organized to oppose offshore oil drilling. In the aftermath of the oil spill, they also articulated a broad concern about environmental problems. In the “Santa Barbara Declaration of Environmental Rights,” they declared “our very existence threatened by our abuse of the natural world.”  They called for a new environmental ethics and ecological consciousness that would bring a “revolution in conduct toward an environment which is rising in revolt against us.”

How did the Declaration link the Santa Barbara oil spill to a broader set of environmental ideas and problems in the late 1960s and early 1970s? What kinds of actions were implied by its principles? How do these principles read in our current day?


Congressional Record, 91st Cong., 2nd sess., 20 January 1970.

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