Community Environmental Council CEO Sigrid Wright
In a screenshot, Community Environmental Council CEO Sigrid Wright welcomes online viewers Thursday for its online Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival.

Seventh-grader Gabrielle Terzian was inspired by her science teacher at Laguna Blanca in Santa Barbara. 

Her teacher showed a passion for the Earth that she’d never seen before.

“He had been teaching us all year,” Terzian said of her science teacher, “all of the different problems and solutions we have to do on Earth in our time. I wanted to express that to other people through poetry.”

Her poem, titled “Actions Have Consequences,” received recognition Thursday during the Community Environmental Council’s online Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival.

Terzian and two other Santa Barbara County residents were awarded for their submissions to the “Why Earth Day Matters” poetry contest sponsored by the Wildling Museum of Art & Nature in Solvang. The Wildling Museum organized the poetry competition this year, and the museum staff received more than 40 entries by 25 local writers.

Writers of all ages were invited to interpret Earth Day from their point of view, according to the festival organizers. 

The top three winners of the poetry competition performed their poems to a virtual audience at the Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival.

(Scroll down to view the poetry competition reading on YouTube.)

Seventh-grader Ruby Bargiel, a student at Santa Barbara Middle School, began writing poetry a couple of months ago. It’s something she enjoys. 

Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival

In a screenshot, Santa Barbara poet laureate (2015-17) and 2020 Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival performer Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, top left, is shown alongside the top three poem writers and, bottom left, Stacey Otte-Demangate, executive director of the Wildling Museum of Art & Nature.

“To be able to listen to other people’s voices, and the way that they talk about things and just diversifying what I used to think poetry was, and it’s so much more than I thought it was,” Bargiel said.

Bargiel spoke of the inspiration to write her poem, titled “Reaching for the Sun.”

“I took the idea of Earth Day to celebrate the planet, and what we’ve been given and take care of it,” Bargiel said, “and twisted it just a little bit and thought, ‘Why isn’t Earth Day every day? Why don’t we celebrate this planet every single day of our lives as we probably should?’”

Her poem is based on the idea that Earth Day will become a lifelong celebration that “each of us can partake in of our planet.” 

In the adult category, Jack Clymer was awarded for his poem, titled “Why Earth Day Matters.”

“I wrote this poem because I’m aware of what the Earth is going through,” Clymer said. “In traveling, I run into a lot of people who are concerned and are coming up with solutions and believe that we can turn this around.”

Santa Barbara poet laureate (2015-17) and 2020 Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival performer Sojourner Kincaid Rolle volunteered to judge the poetry competition. 

“I enjoyed reading all of the poems,” she said. “Here we are wanting to uplift and raise up the idea of Earth Day in the eyes of the community.”

Earth Day is one of the most important days of the year, said Stacey Otte-Demangate, executive director of the Wildling Museum.

Thursday’s festival lineup included guest speakers, musicians, education workshops, short films and pre-recorded videos, including a video presented by the Santa Barbara Audubon Society that was produced by Sage Hill Films

At the start of the festival, Community Environmental Council CEO Sigrid Wright welcomed the online viewers.

Long-billed curlew

In a screenshot, a group of long-billed curlew are shown during a video presented by the Santa Barbara Audubon Society and produced by Sage Hill Films. The video played during the virtual Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival on Thursday afternoon.

She said this year’s Earth Day is designed to help people “channel your grief, your anger, your passion, your ideas to help get you going, get you educated, get you moving and get you connected.”

Wright mentioned how the environmental nonprofit organization formed in 1970 in response to the devastating 1969 oil spill in the Santa Barbara Channel.

“Today is not only Earth Day, but it is the Community Environmental Council’s birthday,” she said. “In the spring of 1970, a group of forward-thinking young people fresh out of college formed one of the first environmental organizations on the Central Coast, and it was part of a theme of young people around the country who were outraged by the devastating impacts of environmental losses that they saw throughout the country, including the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, which was the worst oil spill on U.S. shores at that time.”

The first day of the three-day festival focused on the theme of youth leadership.

“Youth have a lot to be rightfully upset about when it comes to the climate crisis,” Wright said. “We know that there is no issue that is more threatening to our very existence. We’re in a position now where we have to do twice as much twice as fast.”

The CEC’s Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival, which is online this year because of the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, features conversations with climate leaders, musical performances, art contests, speakers and other opportunities, according to the organization. Online events are planned from noon to 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 

Each day will celebrate a key area, with Friday focused on “business leadership” and Saturday highlighting “community leadership.”

Click here for a full Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival event schedule.

“Over the next few days, we are going to be matching you with some of the great voices and powerful leaders from around the Central Coast,” Wright said. “Role models who are working as tireless activists.”

YouTube video

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.