If you’ve ever walked to the beach and gotten tar on your foot, you know the nasty substance we’re talking about when we want to stop offshore drilling for oil. In 1969, Santa Barbara’s beaches were covered in crude oil from a fractured wellhead on the ocean floor drilled by Union Oil. Wildlife was devastated, the beaches were contaminated for miles, and it took years for the community to recover. From that catastrophe was born the environmental movement.
Activist groups sprung up and worked together to put a limit on offshore drilling and halt the expansion of oil leases. This moratorium has been in effect for decades. Now at the behest of the fossil fuel industry, California and the nation are facing another attack on the coastline for the sake of last century’s technology.
The people of California are fighting back. This past week, California Public Interest Research Group, or CALPIRG, brought UC Berkeley and UC Davis students to Sacramento to march, rally and comment at the only public forum set up for a state with nearly 40 million people. At the rally, politicians, Native Americans, environmentalists, nurses and students all spoke out on the capital steps to put a halt to this ill-conceived plan.
The biggest fossil fuel corporations in the world are using their wealth to force the nation back onto the spigot of crude oil in a cynical attempt to revive their cash cow. It is no mistake that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is the former CEO of ExxonMobil (the reincarnation of the standard oil trust that was broken up in the last century) and that operatives of organizations tied to Koch Industries (a privately owned fossil fuel conglomerate) have infested the administration of President Donald Trump and are actively dismantling the environmental protections put in place by previous administrations.
Our country was on the road to independence from fossil fuels — replacing it with renewable energy, being responsible citizens of the world and doing our part to stop climate change before it is too late. But now, we are going backward, stuck in reverse in a 1950s jalopy heading over a cliff. We have to act now. Join CALPIRG and other campus environmental groups to learn more about actions you can take to move our country in the right direction.
Marie Claire de Martino is a CALPIRG board member