Sixty-six days and counting. That is how long, as of press time, the British Petroleum (BP) oil well, known formally and infamously as Deepwater Horizon, has been hemorrhaging crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. With an estimated 60,000 barrels a day (roughly 2.5 million gallons) of liquid gold flowing into the fragile underwater and near-shore ecosystems of the Gulf region for more than two months straight, the depth and breadth of destruction that this disaster is wreaking upon our world boggles the mind. In short, it is already the worst environmental disaster of our lifetime, and we haven’t even seen the half of it yet.
For us here on the South Coast, the images of oil-covered sea birds and crude-clogged beaches coming out of the Gulf are eerily similar to the world we woke up to in early 1969 when Union Oil’s Platform A busted wide open on a fateful January day. The two-headed hellfire of economic and environmental ruin caused by a large-scale oil spill is, unfortunately, something our town knows all too well. With this in mind, Santa Barbarans are mobilizing in the name of solidarity. This Sunday, on the shores of West Beach, the Santa Barbara community will be making a Stand in the Sand—a purposeful and much-needed day at the beach to show the folks in the Gulf that they are not alone. “This isn’t a protest. This isn’t a rally or a festival,” explained organizer Eric Cárdenas. “It is a gathering to show that the people of Santa Barbara are with the people of the Gulf. We have been there before, and we know what they are going through.”
Cárdenas, who has been a gregarious and tireless warrior for Mother Earth since his days as an undergrad at UCSB, has leaned heavily on the network of friends and cohorts he has developed over his years working at the Environmental Defense Center and, most recently, the Orfalea Foundation to pull together this last-minute and increasingly impressive event. Pounding the social-media pavement and using good old-fashioned word of mouth, Cárdenas, with some help from the Fund for Santa Barbara and the Gaviota-based LoaTree crew, has, in less than two weeks’ time, not only organized this weekend’s symbolic show of solidarity but also created what promises to be a lasting way for Santa Barbara to help those afflicted by the Deepwater disaster by establishing the Stand in the Sand Recovery Fund—where 100 percent of your donations will go toward humanitarian relief and ecological recovery efforts in the Gulf.
As for Sunday, the plan is for people to keep their Solstice-charged positive vibrations going one day longer and head down to West Beach at 1 p.m. where they will be welcomed by members of the Chumash nation. After that, Mayor Helene Schneider, who will have just returned from a tour of the situation in the Gulf, will address the crowd. From there, the masses—who are being urged to wear yellow—will form a human boom and make their way to the water’s edge to, as Cárdenas put it, “symbolically stem the rising black tide that is creeping up in the Gulf.”
For more information, visit www.standinthesand.com.