The Oil Spill That Energized a Movement

Source: Al Jazeera

The pictures looked so familiar – the ruined rig, a spreading stain of oil, birds and wildlife dying, a massive effort to clean up the deadly spill.

But instead of depicting the disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, the photographs I was looking at in the library of the Santa Barbara, California Historical Museum showed a spill that happened four decades ago.

It was an event that changed Americans’ attitudes toward the environment forever.

Today, Santa Barbara is an affluent, laid-back beach town set between the mountains and the sea, with hardly a piece of litter to mar its pristine beaches.

On a recent morning, the only sounds to be heard along the shore were the lapping of waves and the whoops of teenagers doing tricks on skateboards.

But in January 1969, it was the scene of a catastrophe.

That is when Union Oil Company’s Platform A blew out a few kilometres offshore, spewing tens of thousands of barrels of crude into the Santa Barbara Channel.

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