“Selma Rubin and Community of Life” at Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Selma Rubin and Beezhan Tulu at El Capitan (courtesy photo)

Selma Rubin and Beezhan Tulu at El Capitan (courtesy photo)

The legacy of beloved local activist Selma Rubin lives on in filmmaker Beezhan Tulu‘s new documentary, Selma Rubin and Community of Life, which is an official selection of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. 

When asked what inspired him to do the film, Tulu said, “I believe we don’t own this planet and we share it with billions of other species that our health and livelihood completely depends on theirs. Therefore I always look for stories that promote a healthier planet for all species. Selma Rubin and her community has done that. Therefore a story like Selma’s and how she has encouraged every one around her to build strong organizations such as EDC (Environmental Defense Center) and CEC (Community Environmental Council) has been very inspiring to me.”

The documentary focuses on the period of time when Rubin (who passed away in 2012) finds out that a developer is planning to build 1,500 homes on the Gaviota Coast and decides to stop him. It’s definitely a must see for locals. Along with footage of Rubin, it also features Dave Davis (CEO/Executive Director of the Community Environmental Council), Chris Mobley (Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Superintendent), David Landecker (former Executive Director of the Environmental Defense Center), Jean-Michelle Cousteau (explorer, environmentalist and Chairman of the Board and President of Ocean Futures Society), Linda Krop (Chief Counsel of the Environmental Defense Center), Marc McGinnes (UCSB Environmental Studies Program), Paul Relis (founding Executive Director of the Community Environmental Council) and Mike Lunsford (charter member and president of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy Board of Directors).

In addition to a touching local story, what Tulu hopes people will take away from the film is an encouraging message. “I  believe in people and know that we need to be working to gather for a better world. I believe that focusing on a healthier planet for all species goes beyond our differences in culture, religion, nationality, race, sex, skin color and all other shallow thoughts that have separated us and made us suffer. And although we live in hard times and 98% of scientists agree that global climate change is real and we need to do something very serious, really fast, and really soon. But I believe this is also a great opportunity to unite us again as humanity.”

Selma Rubin and Community of Life will screen at Santa Barbara Museum of Art on February 4 at 7 p.m. and at Metro 4 Theatre on February  5 at 10 a.m.


—Leslie Dinaberg
Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on January 28, 2014.

Citizen Scientists: Santa Barbara Channelkeeper

Left–right: A diver maps eelgrass habitat as part of Channelkeeper’s Marine Monitoring and Restoration Program. Watershed program director Ben Pitterle collects data on water pollution levels. Photos courtesy Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons, Summer 2009.

Left–right: A diver maps eelgrass habitat as part of Channelkeeper’s Marine Monitoring and Restoration Program. Watershed program director Ben Pitterle collects data on water pollution levels. Photos courtesy Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons, Summer 2009.

PEOPLE SAY WE’RE ONE OF THE best-kept secrets in town,” says Kira Redmond, executive director of Santa Barbara Channelkeeper. She may be right—but not for long.

Started as an Environmental Defense Center program in 1999, Channelkeeper is now an independent nonprofit, as well as part of one of the fastest growing grassroots environmental movements in the world: International Waterkeeper Alliance.

With just six and a half staff members, buttressed by an army of citizen scientist
volunteers, Channelkeeper works to protect and restore the Santa Barbara Channel and watersheds in a variety of ways, including water quality monitoring, education and community outreach, political advocacy and marine habitat restoration. Perhaps what is most unique about Channelkeeper is that its volunteers work out in the field.

“The field work is kind of what sets us apart,” says Redmond. “We work closely with groups like Environmental Defense Center, Surfrider and Heal the Ocean, but they are advocacy and public education focused. We work with them on a lot of issues, but as far as being out in the field and identifying pollution problems in the creeks or doing habitat monitoring in the channel, there really aren’t other environmental nonprofits that do that.”

Grassroots programs such as “Grunion Greeters” (where volunteers monitor grunion behavior on local beaches during spawning season) and “Stream Teams” (a volunteer-based water quality-monitoring program at the Goleta Slough watershed and the Ventura River) fall under the leadership of Ben Pitterle, watershed programs director.

The grunion program, which is part of a larger study being conducted at Pepperdine University, “is one of the best family-oriented volunteer opportunities I think we have,” says Pitterle. “I did Carpinteria State Beach last summer, and it’s really cool because of the campers. There are just all kinds of kids out playing. It’s fun, a family fun event. I think this is going to be our fifth or sixth year coordinating for this region . . .We get a lot of people who don’t otherwise participate in some of our water quality volunteer opportunities, so
it’s a good way to reach out to a broader group of people—especially kids.”

The “Stream Team,” operating since 2001, has a core group of volunteers. “We go out once a month to collect water samples,” Pitterle explains. “We do that with a few different purposes. One is to collect a baseline of water data to monitor over time to see if things are getting better or worse. Another reason is it’s a great way to reach out to the public, educate and to reach out to the public, educate and train them about watersheds, and help them to become environmental stewards themselves. The third is that looking at
the data helps us identify actual problems, and then we can relay that information to
different public agencies who are responsible for regulating water problems to try to get them fixed.”

Working with public agencies is a big part of what Channelkeeper does. When
budget cuts forced the county to stop its marine monitoring program this past fall,
Channelkeeper rallied its supporters and pitched in thousands of dollars to continue
this important warning service system for surfers, swimmers and beachgoers at 12 county beaches. Santa Barbara city officials also helped pick up the slack by testing at four additional locations.

In addition to partnering with county and city officials, Channelkeeper works closely with researchers at UCSB and Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary, and is collaborating with the state to implement a Marine Life Protection Act that will create a network of marine protected areas or underwater parks along the entire California coast.

“In the work that we do in the field, we work with agencies that don’t have the resources to be everywhere themselves,” says Redmond. “For instance, the city of Santa Barbara has two code enforcement staff. So they’re out there like we are, looking at businesses that might have a high potential to pollute and checking up on them. But they can’t
be everywhere at once, so with budget cuts our role is becoming increasingly important. We have really good relationships with people at these agencies, Basically, they’re grateful to us for helping them do their jobs.”

For more information about Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, call 805/563-3377 or visit www.sbck.org.
n Santa Barbara Seasons Summer 2009.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Summer 2009. Click below to read the story as it appeared in print.

SB Seasons Summer 2009