“SOS California is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the environmental impact of natural gas and oil seep pollution on our ocean, our beaches and our air quality, through education and awareness. Our goal is to alert the public to the magnitude of natural seep pollution in the Santa Barbara Channel, and to the availability of an invaluable resource to fund environmental cleanup and develop alternative energy sources. It is through collaboration with an informed public that we can build the bridge to a healthy and sustainable future.”
The statement above summarizes the mission of SOS (Stop Oil Seeps) California. Since our inception in 2007, we have become a part of the ongoing discussion of energy and the environment in Santa Barbara. A Santa Barbara physicist and energy expert, SOS co-founder Bruce Allen was instrumental in connecting the dots, citing scientific research that revealed this: reduce oil seep pollution by extracting the oil before it can escape. Seems simple, really.
Something else is simple — loss is simply a part of life. But for SOS, the sudden and unexpected loss of Bruce Allen on Dec. 6, 2013, seems anything but simple. As we cope with this simple but harsh reality, we are reminded of the ways Bruce embodied the spirit of the SOS mission.
Alert the Public to the Magnitude of Natural Seep Pollution in the Santa Barbara Channel
SOS began as a glimmer in the eyes of Bruce and our other co-founder, his good friend Lad Handelman. Their concept of a science-based approach to educating the public on the magnitude of natural oil seep pollution — and the solution — forms the basis of the work we do.
Education and Awareness
Bruce’s education and experience defined SOS’ science-based approach. Bruce came to SOS as a physicist with 26 years of experience in spacecraft research and development. He previously worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on programs that included Star Wars, and at Hughes Aircraft and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).
Availability of an Invaluable Resource
Whenever any organization asked for an SOS program, Bruce was the man at the podium. His ability to communicate our purpose and mission convinced many skeptics and, at the very least, inspired many lively and entertaining debates!
Develop Alternative Energy Sources
In 1981, Bruce founded a space research and solar energy company and in 2011 released his book on solar energy and national energy policy. Bruce also served on the board of the Santa Barbara Air Pollution Control District Community Advisory Council.
Environmental Impact of Natural Gas and Oil Seep Pollution
For many years, Bruce served as a volunteer for the Wildlife Care Network. He would respond to a call reporting a seabird in distress, and would drive out to the site to pick up the bird and deliver it to the center for rehabilitation. He was particularly concerned with seabirds that were impacted by the natural oil seeps.
Collaboration with an Informed Public
Bruce played a major role in ensuring that SOS was visible and heard at conferences throughout the state discussing the energy, economics and environmental issues as they related to the SOS message. We've been a sponsor, presenter and exhibitor at these events, each giving Bruce the opportunity to educate the public and professionals in one-on-one conversations, exchanges that he relished.
Availability of an Invaluable Resource
In 2010, Bruce accepted an invitation from the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources to testify before Congress regarding the environmental and commercial perspectives on offshore drilling. This trip opened several doors for SOS to educate new and influential audiences in California and Washington, D.C. In fact, Bruce was subsequently invited to Sacramento to address energy issues with state legislators.
Bruce accepted another invitation from the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee to again testify at a legislative hearing (originally planned for September 2013 but postponed to 2014). This was to be Bruce's fourth visit to Washington, D.C. On previous visits, he met with John Boehner, first when Boehner was the House minority leader, the second when he was speaker of the House.
Bridge to a Healthy and Sustainable Future
Bruce was the go-to guy for commentary on energy issues in Santa Barbara. Last April, for example, Bruce was on the five-person panel for "Global Warning: How Will Santa Barbara Face Climate Change," a town hall meeting at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
Bruce was not just the co-founder of an active nonprofit organization. He was an integral part of the close-knit team. As much as we at SOS respected Bruce the physicist, we so enjoyed his softer side. Bruce was a fabulous gourmet cook and wine connoisseur — often sharing his creations at our board meetings. He was also the flower guy, who spent part of each board meeting tending to the California poppies he planted at co-founder Lad's house (Lad's Pad) on TV Hill in Santa Barbara.
Our future work at SOS California will be in Bruce’s honor, with a constant eye toward achieving the high standards he continually modeled for us. May you rest in peace, dear friend.