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Santa Barbarans take credit for not only starting the modern environmental movement but also for inspiring Earth Day. Like many conceits, this notion has almost as much fact as fiction to back it up. In fact, former U.S. senator Gaylord Nelson is the one credited for hatching the first Earth Day back in 1970. But Nelson said his visit to Santa Barbara after the catastrophic oil spill of 1969 spurred him into action. That incident was the dire midwife for a lot of environmental legislation that came to be in 1970-like the Environmental Protection Act and the Clear Air and Clean Water acts.


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