This blog is for the Santa Barbara chapter of Deep Green Resistance. Our chapter covers the coastal area from Lompoc in the north to Carpinteria in the south. Subscribe to this blog to stay updated on our chapter’s activity and relevant news. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on what we do and how you can get involved.
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Fossil Fuel Extraction in Santa Barbara
Our chapter is interested in numerous issues related to environmental destruction and social justice. One of our biggest concerns is the continued expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure despite two recent oil spills in the Santa Barbara area and an ongoing criminal investigation of Plains All-American Pipeline, L.P., the company responsible for the spill on May 19, 2015. There are still several oil & gas fields and offshore drilling platforms in Santa Barbara County.
Inspired by the oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara in 1969 and the inability of government to respond, Gaylord Nelson, then US Senator from Wisconsin, created a “national teach-in on the environment” to harness the energy of college students who had been recently politicized by the anti-war movement. These are the origins of the first Earth Day. April 22, 1970 saw political protests at thousands of universities, with more than 20 million Americans demonstrating in rallies nationwide. These and other mass demonstrations demanded action. Legislators answered with the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency as well as the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Endangered Species Acts. Despite environmental regulations and conservation attempts, not only has the rate of ecological destruction continued, the rate of destruction is accelerating.
Violence against Women
Santa Barbara was reminded of the horrific price paid for male entitlement in 2014 when a man went on a murder spree in Isla Vista. The murderer specifically stated that his reasoning for the crime was women rejecting him. He wanted to show that he was “the true alpha male.” Masculinity is irredeemably toxic and must be dismantled completely. As part of a radical feminist organization, we work to abolish the patriarchy that encourages male entitlement and violence.
Male violence is not confined solely to college campuses. The Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center receives approximately 700 new cases each year, yet 84% of cases go unreported. This translates to over 4,000 incidents of sexual assault every year, including unreported cases, just in the Santa Barbara area. Even when they are reported, cases of sexual assault are commonly mishandled by authorities. For example, multiple lawsuits have been filed against the University of Santa Barbara for mishandling sexual assault cases with utter incompetence. Mistrust of university programs and processes increases the rate of underreporting. According to recent estimations, 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of attempted or completed rape, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women ages 15 to 44, and a woman is beaten by her male partner every 15 seconds in the US. Meanwhile, 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. Our culture implicitly supports violence against women by refusing to punish the men who are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of this violence: 98% of sexual assaults are committed by men, and 85% of sexual assault victims are women. The intersection of racism and misogyny results in non-white women experiencing violence at a higher rate than white women. For example, the number one cause of death for African American women ages 15 to 34 is homicide committed by a current or former intimate partner, and Indigenous women are 3.5 times more likely to be a victim of rape.
The History of Colonialism and Racism in Santa Barbara
We acknowledge that we are living on stolen land that belongs to the Chumash people. Currently, there are 14 bands of the Chumash Nation, yet only one, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, is federally recognized. Closer to Santa Barbara, The Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation have 501 (c) (3) non-profit status, and are accepting donations to better serve their community through cultural awareness and education, sacred site protection, community engagement, and youth and elder programs.
Since the first arrival of Europeans in 1542, the history of the Santa Barbara area has been one of conquest and exploitation. Military forts and Catholic missions were constructed to exert Spanish colonial interests. Although European accounts describe the Chumash people as friendly in comparison with other native groups, their kindness was returned with oppression and subjugation. Despite what the mission proponents claim today, the colonizers used fear, genocide, and deceit to trick Indigenous people into an abusive relationship of dependence based on exploitation. Local populations were decimated by the effects of terrible epidemic diseases exacerbated by overpopulated imprisonment (especially of children), displacement from their ancestral lands, conscription into forced labor, starvation, and torture at the hands of the Spanish. The short life expectancy of mission slaves was so low that demand for new labor was constant; the mission leaders, called “padres,” looked ever farther and enslaved increasing numbers of interior tribes in addition to the coastal tribes. The mission system, a military complex that enslaved the Chumash people and was built around Christianity, was secularized after Mexico won independence from Spain. After that, it became a quasi-feudal social system with the Chumash laboring at the bottom and the descendants of the Spanish soldiers at the top.
After the United States Empire conquered the area, the gold rush brought an influx of violent Americans into Santa Barbara who targeted the non-white population with a series of lynchings in the 1850s. State-sponsored genocide continued throughout the 19th century as well as the legalized slavery of all indigenous Californians, especially children. The tradition of state-sponsored oppression remained strong at the turn of the century: at the local level, Santa Barbara was home to a KKK organization thousands strong in the 1920s and into the 1930s, including police officers and prominent citizens; at the state level, California imposed multiple segregation laws; at the federal level, various forms of immigration and citizenship restrictions targeted people with Asian ancestry during World War II. Santa Barbara once had a thriving Japanese population with a cultural center at the 100 block of East Canon Perdido until the military internment campaigns. By the early 1960s, the erasure of Santa Barbara’s Nihonmachi was marked by the demolition all remaining structures. The City of Santa Barbara decided to rebuild the area in the Spanish colonial style of architecture, and rebuild the Presidio, including the chapel, atop the fresh rubble of the Japanese Buddhist Church. This is a fitting metaphor for Santa Barbara, being a site of routine eradication of non-white populations at the hands of a white, imperial state.
A Tradition of Resistance
We recognize that our resistance to the dominant culture of capitalism, racism, patriarchy, colonialism, and imperialism is not a new idea. In 1824, in response to the ill treatment and forced labor they endured from priests and soldiers alike, and sparked by a brutal beating of a Chumash boy, the oppressed locals took up arms against Mexican occupiers. While the Chumash revolted at Mission Santa Ines, a confederation of more than 2,000 Native Americans captured La Purisima mission and held it for over a month, despite attempts to recapture it by Mexican forces. When news of the event reached the Chumash in Santa Barbara, they ambushed the local soldiers, and captured the mission. Quickly, soldiers from nearby Presidio Santa Barbara surrounded the mission, but the Chumash refused to surrender; instead they sacked the mission, and then retreated into the mountains during the night. A significant number of Chumash fled to the interior of the Southern San Joaquin Valley. While many eventually returned to the missions, others later formed guerrilla bands with interior tribes who used modern weapons on horseback to effectively disrupt colonial military forces.
Today, Chumash resistance to continued colonial expansion takes the form of community building, cultural awareness, and land defense. Vandenberg Air Force Base continues to threaten the coastline, including Humqaq, also known as Point Conception. This site is sacred to the Chumash, many other tribes in California, and even the Shinnecock tribe from Long Island. The surrounding area is already threatened by constant and expanding water theft, endangering the existence of steelhead trout, red-legged frogs, and least-bell vireo communities.
In addition to resistance from local tribes, UC Santa Barbara has also been a center for progressive political activism. In 1967, Harambee, a Swahili word meaning “let’s pull together,” was organized to express and promote African American culture on campus. Other groups like the Black Action Group and the Black Student Union soon followed. In 1968, 12 African American students occupied and blockaded a building containing the on-campus computer hub and sensitive files while Black Student Union representatives negotiated their list of eight demands with UC Santa Barbara officials. These demands included the hiring of black staff and faculty, creation of a Black Studies College, creation of an investigative commission to study on-campus racism, cultural and educational relevancy, and university access.
In 1970, the brutality of local law enforcement was made transparent in their well-documented, belligerent, and lethal mistreatment of student protesters in what is commonly referred to as the Isla Vista Riots. Students and faculty protested the Vietnam War, institutional racism at UC Santa Barbara, economic exploitation, renters’ rights, and the expansion of offshore oil drilling despite the nearby 1969 oil spill among other issues. Police brutality included willful destruction of property, unprovoked beatings, and sexual assault of women. UC Santa Barbara professors and UC Police Department officers continue to racially profile. Students are still struggling against racism and other bigotry perpetuated by their peers and institutional powers.
Recent student protests include:
- Protesting the University’s collusion with military officials and weapons manufacturers.
- A sit-in and rally demanding effective reform concerning the University’s handling of sexual assault cases.
- A demonstration of solidarity with undocumented students in response to on-campus California Border Patrol recruiting.
- The second “Million Student March” in response to on-campus racism and other issues, and a silent protest in response to over-policing.
Despite decades of hard work, the root problems persist. Victories for environmentalists and social justice advocates are few and far in between and temporary at best, while our losses are often permanent. For thousands of years, the spreading culture of human supremacy and domination, as explored in The Myth of Human Supremacy written by Derrick Jensen, has rapidly expanded the size and numbers of cities at the cost of every living being. Mass species extinction, resource extraction and predatory global trade, habitat destruction, industrial pollution, and climate change are all evidence of a war waged against the planet. It is far past time for us to recognize this war and begin to take decisive action to end it. Environmentalists have engaged in a strategy solely of defense for too long. It is necessary to act offensively against the systems of power that are destroying life. As Frederick Douglass said, “If there is no struggle there is no progress… Power concedes nothing without demand.”
Take action and join us in the struggle to save life on this planet.