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Seeing GreenThe Use and Abuse of American Environmental Images$
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Finis Dunaway

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226169903

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226169934.001.0001

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From Santa Barbara to Earth Day

From Santa Barbara to Earth Day

(p.35) Two From Santa Barbara to Earth Day
Seeing Green

Finis Dunaway

University of Chicago Press

This chapter considers how media coverage of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill and photographs of the Earth from space popularized the notion of all-encompassing, slowly escalating environmental crisis. From Santa Barbara to the first celebration of Earth Day in 1970, the environmental crisis became the conceptual frame through which the media portrayed pollution and other environmental problems. This coverage revealed how the long timeframes of fear became increasingly accepted in American public culture and how the shift in emotional styles made possible the emergence of popular environmentalism. Audiences looked beyond the specific example of Santa Barbara to see this oil spill as a sign of the slow-motion violence of the environmental crisis. This perception of Santa Barbara involved the fusion of fact and feeling, science and spectacle: audiences responded emotionally to the plight of imperiled wildlife and filtered these feelings through the ecological lens that had already brought warnings of radioactive fallout, pesticide dangers, and other threats to humans and nature.

Keywords:   Santa Barbara oil spill, Earth Day, environmental crisis, earth imagery, emotions, ecological lens

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