What is happening to Santa Barbara, the birthplace of Earth Day?

Our city stands out among other coastal towns. We have clear mountain and ocean views not crowded by skyscrapers, and we can walk on clean beaches without seeing another person or rows of mega houses. Where else can you spend the morning hiking on a quiet mountain trail and hang out at the beach in the afternoon without having to spend even one minute on the freeway to get there?

However, it is changing, and Santa Barbara, among many other desired places, is turning into a traffic nightmare and haven for private and corporate jets, and more commercial flights congesting our clear skies.

Unfortunately, the failure of the climate summit in Glasgow shows that our leaders on a national and local level are turning a blind eye to this emergency. Congress is failing to pass climate legislation, and on a local level our city’s leaders and administrators are only interested in getting the tax dollars as evidenced by approving the expansion of the airport and expecting a 50 percent increase of aircraft traffic in 10 years. The fossil fuel industry is only too happy to comply.

Besides the problem of causing air pollution, airplanes are also a significant source of noise pollution exceeding the WHO value of 50 dB allowed for residential areas. Research has shown that the negative impact of noise not only affects humans but also animals.

While nobody suggests that we all stop flying or driving, there are significant variations of the amount of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere. While we have choices in which kind of car we buy — from electric to gas-guzzling trucks — all airplanes use fossil fuel, and the shorter the flight and the fewer people being transported, the worse for the environment. Unfortunately, what we see is an extraordinary increase in huge private jets flying short distances transporting just a few passengers in and out of Santa Barbara.

To add insult to injury, most of these bigger and louder newcomers — commercial as well as private/corporate jets — are flying directly over residential neighborhoods dumping their pollution on us and eroding what makes Santa Barbara so special and a desirable tourist destination in the first place. A petition https://chng.it/ZYRNtDG7 has collected close to 800 signatures to demand better compliance with the noise abatement approach over the ocean.

I am sad and angry to witness this attitude of “my way or the highway” at the expense of the health of our city and future generations. Instead of fighting to keep Santa Barbara an environmentally friendly city, we are collectively taking the easy and selfish way out. Where is the outrage to demand that the work and memory of the first Earth Day was not in vain?


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