In 1969, a massive and historic oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California helped give rise to the modern environmental movement. One year later, a group of local leaders led by UCSB and Environmental Studies Professor Rod Nash penned the “Santa Barbara Declaration of Environmental Rights” to acknowledge human-caused environmental harms and our enormous powers to alter the world. It called for an “ecological consciousness” that recognizes people as part of a community of living things sharing a fragile earth, and called upon individuals and governments to take responsibility for its preservation. This Declaration was read into the Congressional Record and helped bolster a series of major new bedrock environmental laws that have consequently saved lives, preserved species, cleaned polluted rivers and lifted the haze over American cities.

Today, a new version is being created out of a participatory process with an array of regional groups led by current UCSB Environmental Studies Department Chair, David Pellow, who says, “Our work on the Declaration actively seeks to incorporate perspectives of diverse community members and stakeholders. In the next chapter of the environmental movement, we stand committed to engaging those who have been disproportionately burdened by social injustices – women, youth, immigrants, the elderly, people of color, and those with low-incomes, who have fewer resources to respond to the negative impacts of climate change and other environmental threats.” The next 50 years must focus on fostering environmental and climate justice in our community. 

Our goal is to have a new version, for these times, ready by early 2020.  Our effort is to reflect as a community a Declaration that represents the environemntal movement for the next 50 years!  If you have any comments about the 1970 version, and/or suggestions as to what you would like to see included in the updated 2020 Santa Barbara Declaration of Environmental Rights, click here to share your thoughts.

Please frequently check this website for updates on the 2020 draft.

NOTE:  At the January 27th, 2019 50 Years After the Santa Barbara Oil Spill: A Call to Action event held at the Arlington Theatre, a Found poem titled "Together We Pledge" and including lines from the early works of the 2020 Draft of Declaration of Environmental Rights, was read to an audience of 1,500+ by a group of community leaders, activists, and students.  Click here to read the poem.


The 1970 Santa Barbara Declaration of Environmental Rights

Read January 28, 1970 at the January 28 Conference to mark the first anniversary of the Santa Barbara Oil Spill.  It was also read into the U.S. Congressional Record in 1970.

All people have the right to an environment capable of sustaining life and promoting happiness. If the accumulated actions of the past become destructive of this right, men now living have the further right to repudiate the past for the benefit of the future.

And it is manifest that centuries of careless neglect of the environment have brought mankind to a final crossroads. The quality of our lives is eroded and our very existence threatened by our abuse of the natural world.

Moved by an environmental disaster in the Santa Barbara Channel to think and act in national and world terms, we submit these charges:

  • We have littered the land with refuse.
  • We have encroached upon our heritage of open space and wildland.
  • We have stripped the forests and the grasses and reduced the soil to fruitless dust.
  • We have contaminated the air we breathe for life.
  • We have befouled the lakes and rivers and oceans along with their shorelines.
  • We have released deadly poisons into earth, air, and water, imperiling all life.
  • We have exterminated entire species of birds and animals and brought others close to annihilation.
  • We are overpopulating the earth.
  • We have made much of the physical world ugly and loud, depriving man of the beauty and quiet that feeds his spirit.

Recognizing that the ultimate remedy for these fundamental problems is found in man's mind, not his machines, we call on societies and their governments to recognize and implement the following principles:

  • We need an ecological consciousness that recognizes man as member, not master, of the community of living things sharing his environment.
  • We must extend ethics beyond social relations to govern man's contact with all life forms and with the environment itself.
  • We need a renewed idea of community which will shape urban environments that serve the full range of human needs.
  • We must find the courage to take upon ourselves as individuals responsibility for the welfare of the whole environment, treating our own backyards as if they were the world and the world as if it were our backyard.
  • We must develop the vision to see that in regard to the natural world private and corporate ownership should be so limited as to preserve the interest of society and the integrity of the environment.
  • We need greater awareness of our enormous powers, the fragility of the earth, and the consequent responsibility of men and government for its preservation.
  • We must redefine "progress" toward an emphasis on long-term quality, rather than immediate quantity.


WE PROPOSE A REVOLUTION in conduct toward an environment which is rising in revolt against us. Granted that ideas and institutions long established are not easily changed; yet today is the first day of the rest of our life on this planet.


To read about Dr. Nash's effrots to write the Santa Barabra Declaration of Environmental Rights read "Santa Barbara’s Black Tide of 1969" posted on The American Institute for Progressive Democracy


2020 Santa Barbara Declaration of Environmental Rights be continued........


Together We Pledge: Found Poem based on Working 2020 Draft of Declaration of Environmental Rights

Arranged by Nicole Wald and one of Santa Barbara's Poet Laureates, Sojourner Kincaid Rolle.  Presented at the 50th Anniversary for the Santa Barabra Oil Spill event held at the Arlington Theatre on January 27, 2019.

Speaker 1: Art Cisneros

First, do no harm

Speaker 2: Marc McGinness

Even in the face of adversity, or doubt, we must follow the precautionary principle to avoid harm

Speaker 3: Art Cisneros

In acknowledgment of the cultural wisdom of countless generations of Chumash, we commit to ancient indigenous values of respect, generosity, reciprocity, and accountability within the human/non-human community

Speaker 4: David Pellow

Environmental and climate action must be rooted in all forms of social justice

Speaker 5: Casmali Lopez

indigenous justice and sovereignty

Speaker 6: Lena Fackler

disability justice and gender justice

Speaker 7: Galilea Martinez

racial justice and immigrant justice

Speaker 8: Valentina Thomas

economic justice and ecological justice,

Speaker 9: Michelle Sevilla

We must use and manage our resources responsibly, and ensure

that corporations and institutions are equally respectful to all

Speaker 10: Das Williams

We must ensure that all peoples enjoy equitable and fair access to

healthy food, clean air, clean drinking water, healthy soil and

sustainable energy

Speaker 11: Monique Limon

We must protect our marine resources, creating protected areas with strong fisheries

We must decrease our fossil fuel dependency

Speaker 13: Cynthia Torres

We must not compromise the future viability of the natural environment, human health, and ecological balance.

Speaker 14: Casmali Lopez

"We must study indigenous ecological knowledge alongside western environmental science

Speaker 15: Amanda Pantojo

“We must promote practices that support ecological regeneration, regrowth, and peaceful coexistence with natural life support systems

Speaker 16: Sojourner Kincaid Rolle

“To help humans assume our rightful, humble place in the environment, we commit to supporting the rights of the environment,

Speaker 17: Lena Fackler Galilea Martinez  Valentina Thomas (in unison)

“With gratitude to those who came before us we pledge to maintain a biodiverse community

Speaker 18: (Everyone In Unison)

We stand together

Together we pledge

To work with purpose and integrity

To ensure future generations

Enjoy a clean and healthy world

The Speakers were:

  • Art Cisneros, Chumash Elder

  • Camali Lopez, Chumash Youth

  • UCSB Environmental Studies Majors Amanda Pantoja and Cynthia Torres

  • California State Assemblymember Monique Limon

  • Cathy Murillo, Mayor of the City of Santa Barbara

  • Das Williams, First District Supervisor for the County of Santa Barbara

  • Lena Fackler, Galilea Martinez and Valentina Thomas, Elementary school students and members of the Adams Ocean Guardian Ambassadors Program

  • Michelle Sevilla, UCSB graduate, 350 Santa Barbara Steering Member, newest Board Member of GOO!

  • Marc McGinnis, Environmental Lawyer and Professor Emeritus at UCSB

  • under the direction of Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, Playwright and a Santa Barbara Poet Laureate