Earth Day and UCSB’s Environmental Studies program have a common thread: They share the same parent. Both were born after the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969.

“One of the things that grew out of that was environmental activism — that’s the Earth Day focus and the environmental movement,” said said Josh Schimel, professor and chair of the Environmental Studies program. “The other is the educational theme of students who wanted to study the environment, to make it a major academic endeavor and to transform the way we do academe.”

UCSB’s Environmental Studies program will celebrate its academic accomplishments and look to the future on April 24 during a daylong symposium honoring its 40th anniversary. The event, titled “40 Years Later: Looking Back, Looking Ahead,” will be held at Corwin Pavilion on the UCSB campus.

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, will kick off the festivities with opening remarks at 9 a.m. After panel discussions at 9:30 a.m., 10:45 a.m. and 1 p.m., environmentalist and author Bill McKibben will speak at 3 p.m. on “Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.” The 40th anniversary dinner will begin at 6 p.m., followed by keynote speaker Deb Callahan, president of The Heinz Center. She will speak on “The Ideal of Environmentalism: The Next Forty Years.”

The symposium is open to the public and several of the events are free, though registration is required to attend some of the panel discussions. Click here to register.

“We’ve always been this kind of shoestring program. We’ve only got about seven and a half full-time faculty positions in the entire program. We have over 700 majors at the moment,” Schimel said. “What we’re trying to do is expand that and build ES to be a stronger focal point for all environmental activity on campus.”

According to Schimel, the movement to create an environmental studies program 40 years ago was really a movement to make academics in universities relevant.

“To have a role in solving society’s problems and in training people who would do that — that’s really what environmental studies is all about,” he said.