An extremely productive first day of preregistration sees 50+ new Santa Barbara High School students pre-register to vote! Booths were set up in the school quad and on the senior lawn during lunch on Friday and produced prolific turnouts. After completing a one page, pre-registration paper, students were on their way to lunch. After receiving precise instruction and comprehensive training from representatives of the Women’s Voting Association, EnviroVote members were able to facilitate the pre-registering of students.
Many students were surprised at the relative ease of the registration process, and many sixteen-year-olds were pleasantly surprised when EnviroVote students informed them they were eligible to pre-register". Upon completing the necessary paperwork, students submitted their papers to EnviroVote team members stationed at the booth or wandering the crowd. Team members were extremely helpful and more than willing to consistently provide aid where needed. After the event, our team successfully and expediently disassembled the tables and any spare materials. Leaving no mess and accomplishing a great deal, our team may congratulate themselves on a job well done. And students of Santa Barbara High School may congratulate themselves on becoming registered voters. However more importantly, functioning members of our political system!
The EnviroVote Environmental Policy panel was a success, with many students, teachers, parents, and community members filling the SBHS theater. Moderated by Diego Perez and Siena Pomerantz, the panelists had 90 seconds each to answer questions involving local environmental issues and policies for this year’s election. Panelists included Chris Benson (representing congressman Salud Carbajal), former congresswoman Lois Capps, County Supervisor Das Williams, and candidates for local races including Sofia Collin, Oscar Gutierrez, Michael Vidal. The panel was split into two parts and the panelists were asked about the topics of water conservation, sea-level rise, Propositions 68, 70, and 72, and climate change.
Perez and Pomerantz opened the discussion by pointing out that the period of Fall 2011 to Fall 2015 was the driest period in California’s history. Capps noted that the changes Californians have made to landscaping have been effective, but more needs to be done. Many panelists also emphasized the importance of recycling water. Exposing the absurdity in many people's’ squeamishness surrounding recycled wastewater, Williams held up his water bottle and jokingly said, “Sometime in the last billion years, this was poop water.” Candidate Vidal pointed out that expectations of annual rainfall in California are decreasing, but he praised the diversity of Santa Barbara’s water systems, which uses water coming from reservoirs, the desalination plant, and recycled water. Recycled water was brought up again later on when the panelists discussed the large amounts of California’s water that goes to agriculture. Capps states, “I love almonds. And I think almonds would grow just as well in grey water, maybe even better.”
A main point many of the candidates kept coming back to was the importance of individual decisions. Candidate Vidal also noted that to prevent further climate change, community members should do their best to steer away from fossil fuels and use more sustainable modes of transportation. Capps also emphasized that we should use our purchasing power to eat locally grown produce.
When discussing climate change (with a focus on sea-level rise in Santa Barbara) the panelists stressed the importance of moving infrastructure back from the coasts and preserving beaches. Relating to climate change, the panelists also talked about the increased severity of fires in California. Capps called for more research into designing homes better equipped to face natural disasters. Both Collin and Gutierrez noted that homeowners should clear away brush from their homes in order to prevent the spread of wildfires. Gutierrez mentioned the importance of controlled burns as a preventative measure.
Most panelists were in agreement supporting Proposition 68, which will invest $4.1 billion for repairs and protections of California water supplies as well as future water projects. Pitching to her high school audience’s favorite colors, green and gold, Capps said what seemed to be her favorite line of the morning, “Water is gold.” Other panelists agreed that preventive spending was a necessary sacrifice for cleaner drinking water.
When asked about youth participation in environmental policy, the panelists shied away from the typical “We are the world, we are the children…” kind of answer. Gutierrez praised Santa Barbara for starting environmental education early on, while as he recalled learning about recycling as early as kindergarten. Collins also encouraged the audience to get involved by reaching out to the panelists and other politicians. The panelists all emphasized the importance of spreading awareness and the power that voters have. At the end, Capps eloquently summed up what we had been thinking all along but couldn’t quite find the words for, stating, “EnviroVote is the way to go!”