Bren School Homepage UCSB Homepage UCSB Homepage UCSB Homepage
Events & Media - Polar Bears in Downtown Santa Barbara

April 6, 2007


Polar Bears on State Street

In the run-up to Earth Day 2007, a unique partnership leads to a singular exhibit of polar bear imagery in downtown Santa Barbara


Santa Barbara, Calif.– Thanks to the joint efforts of the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, its benefactor Howard Ruby, the Community Environmental Council, and the Santa Barbara Downtown Organization’s State Street Flag Project, 125 beautiful banners carrying a powerful image related to global warming will be lining State Street from April 18 through April 23, the week of Earth Day 2007.

The image (left), created by Bren School supporter and renowned outdoor photographer Howard Ruby during one of several trips he has made to the bears’ habitats, depicts a lone polar bear searching for food on an Arctic beach that is nearly devoid of snow. The picture quickly and powerfully captures the impact of global warming on Arctic regions – the most environmentally delicate on Earth – and starkly portrays the fact that polar bear habit is literally melting away. Arctic ice flows are critical to the mating and hunting practices – and thus, the continued survival – of polar bears, which are among the most beautiful and charismatic creatures in the world.

The polar bear banners, part of the regularly changing flags in the State Street Flag Project, represent the inauguration of the polar bear as a powerful symbol of global warming and are also the largest public exhibit of polar bear imagery ever shown in the United States. Polar bear images are also featured on bookmarks and children’s trading cards (five different sets of five cards each) that Ruby has donated to be distributed for free at the Earth Day event at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Gardens. The bookmarks contain references for further reading, while the trading cards have information about climate change and practical, easy-to-understand tips for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our own lives.

Ruby, the pioneer in temporary living solutions worldwide and the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Oakwood Worldwide, began taking photographs when he was 8 years old. Through his travels to photograph polar bears and other wildlife in recent years, he has forged a deep connection with the natural world, reflected in his mission not only to save polar bears and call attention to climate change through his images of them, but also to overhaul his global business to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases, widely believed by scientists to cause climate change. In doing so, Ruby is going beyond the usual call to “save the planet” and is personally investing in the complex, multidimensional issues that will allows his company to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Ruby’s photographs will add a compelling note to this year’s Earth Day celebrations, which will also be distinguished by a new partnership between the Bren School and Santa Barbara’s Community Environmental Council (CEC). CEC open its doors in 1970, months after the disastrous Santa Barbara oil spill had blackened area beaches and taken a huge toll on local wildlife. The organization held what was perhaps the first-ever Earth Day celebration anywhere, when it closed off the street in front of its tiny office in downtown Santa Barbara on April 18, 1970. In the following years, CEC would pioneer recycling in Santa Barbara, develop a hazardous-waste collection system, educate the public about pollution in local creeks, become involved in renewable energy and sustainable land use and transportation, and generally serve as the leading edge of local environmental awareness and knowledge.

This is the first time that CEC and the Bren School have teamed up to host Earth Day activities in Santa Barbara. It’s a natural partnership, with CEC bringing its passionate commitment to sustainable living in Santa Barbara, and the Bren School adding an exciting new dimension of scientific research and education.




Sigrid Wright, Community Environmental Council;  963-0583 Ext. 109;;

Carrie Brown, Santa Barbara Downtown Organization:

James Badham, Bren School of Environmental Science & Management: 805-893-5049;;