A couple months back, the Independent interviewed noted local solar historian John Perlin, and John “popped the bubble” about Santa Barbara’s leadership in the environmental movement. Yes the book Silent Spring brought awareness to the world after being published in 1962, some seven years ahead of the Santa Barbara Oil Spill and Robert Sollen’s masterful exposes of those events off our shore.
Even with Rachel Carson’s book being read during those seven years, it was here that a great deal of energy went forward in actual response to the environmental disasters off our coast. Not least of this was through the Community Environmental Council (CEC) and its affiliations.
During Robert Sollen’s memorial service, Lawrence Thompson, an architect and energy conservation advocate, gave a eulogy that included words about his work statewide in creating one of the world’s first building energy conservation programs, now known as California State Title 24. The leadership of news reporter Robert Sollen was pivotal in this and other programs coming from Santa Barbara’s CEC, as he promoted CEC’s growth and participation.
Lawrence said he was inspired by Bob’s reports and had liaison with a technician at the CEC that gave him special background when volunteering as the chairman of the California Council of the American Institute of Architect Energy Task Force in 1977. He led in the origination of the Title 24 Building Energy Guidelines and became chairman of the State Energy Committee to see the program through the approval process for adoption by the State Energy Commission.
Within three years after adoption, Title 24 had saved building over four power plants and took California from number 47 to number 2 in the nation in building energy conservation — and the two-page form for Title 24 compliance for projects only required a half hour to fill out. Electrical power rates went down 20 percent statewide during this time, I am told. Also, during this time over 30 states and 20 countries followed with similar programs — but as Lawrence noted, “There is no way of knowing to what degree these entities may have followed our example.” Thompson, as an outreach of Sollen and CEC, led the state, then the U.S. and the world.
Although this is just one example of Santa Barbara’s role in the environmental movement, it is substantial in. itself. I talked to Lawrence after the memorial to clarify many of the details noted above. Evidently, the regulatory industry has gotten into Title 24 and has made compliance vastly more difficult on a complex computer program. Nevertheless, the world has been following this course, in part due to our local efforts.
Rachel Carson wrote a good book, but Santa Barbara went to work to make great programs happen — no bubble should be popped on our town’s nationwide conservation leadership.