Letter: The Chamber Doesn’t Represent Us

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I was one of 50 local business owners and founders who sent a letter to the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce asking them to endorse Measure P, the Healthy Air & Water Initiative to ban fracking and other extreme oil extraction in Santa Barbara County. This was an impressive and diverse list of leaders in technology, real estate, clean energy, farming, building and architecture, medicine and other fields whose companies employ more people than the the oil industry in Santa Barbara County.

However, I was not surprised when the Chamber came out against Measure P anyway. Nationally, the Chamber of Commerce is tightly connected with the oil and gas industry and they generally speak as one.

This was not always the case. In an earlier time, when local Chambers were more independent, the Santa Barbara Chamber recognized the fact that oil production is a risky enterprise that discourages tourism and other economic development that is the true basis for the wealth and well-being of Santa Barbara County. According to county records, as early as 1908 Santa Barbara’s Chamber of Commerce opposed construction of an oil pipeline on Sterns Wharf fearing oil pollution. In 1929, the Chamber of Commerce came out in opposition to drilling within the city.

However, today, the oil industry exerts disproportionate influence in politics and community organizations. While representing less than 1% of the County workforce and GDP, the oil industry is one of the larger contributors to political campaigns. They know that they need to grease the wheels to get away with activities that put the other 99% of our economy at risk.

If Measure P does not succeed, we are facing a huge increase in oil production using water and energy-intensive techniques that would destroy our local environment and hurt property values and business interests. This is not theoretical. The county has or expects to receive applications for nearly a thousand new wells this year, nearly doubling existing production. These high-intensity techniques have higher well casing failure rates, leaks and other spill risks and could permanently contaminate critical aquifers.

In addition, sea level rise, drought, fire and crop failure are real business risks we face in the County from increased climate change. Failure to pass Measure P would mean potentially doubling county greenhouse gas emissions at a time when responsible long-term economic efforts are better served by reducing emissions.

Measure P exempts all current oil wells and maintenance activities while protecting our county from the significant harm experienced in other places where unconventional oil production has increased dramatically. There are hundreds of similar bans on fracking and other oil production in the U.S., and there has never been a successful legal “takings” claim against one. Citizens have every right to decide whether or not to allow toxic chemicals to be injected through their groundwater aquifers.

While as a businessperson I respect many of the things the local Chambers of Commerce do for us, unfortunately, when it comes to Measure P, they are dead wrong about our true economic interests.

Regards, Jim Taylor

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Warming up to Another Challenge: Expressing Gratitude

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150It’s been quite a past few weeks on social media as the ice bucket challenge for ALS has raised an unprecedented amount of cold, hard cash to fight one wicked disease.

At last count some $100 million has been donated, thanks to the willingness of plenty of people to take the challenge and call out their friends to do the same.

It’s a cool way to make money for research and increase knowledge about a devastating disease that destroys the promising lives of individuals and families. It may change the face of fund-raising, causing many to question the need to organize fancy charity galas that cost big bucks. Maybe there’s another way to go—both for raising funds and raising awareness.

While so many were making a splash and writing checks for that challenge, there was another, quieter one making the rounds: The Seven-Day Gratitude Challenge.

Writing the check in honor of my favorite college professor who passed too soon due to ALS was one thing; soul searching for seven days of expressions of gratitude was something else. No ice cubes or freezing water, no public display on video—just taking the time to sit down, contemplate and communicate what makes life great. And then telling the world about it.

Three expressions of gratitude per day for seven days posted to your Facebook page. The first couple of days are easy: friends, family, good health, creative work. By day three or so, it’s time for deeper reflection, and by day seven, it’s a pretty good snapshot of personal values, personality, talents and interests.

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More importantly, it’s become a commitment to sit down daily and take an inventory of feelings of personal gratitude, and express it. It doesn’t have to go out to the world of social media, or even a private journal. It’s the act of taking the time to slow down for some honest soul-searching, of calming the mind, listening to the inner voice and hearing the heart. And feeling grateful.

That discipline might just help make this world a better place in so many ways, even raising money and awareness, no ice buckets needed.

The Seven-Day Gratitude Challenge: I nominate you.

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Avocado Festival Poster

Viewers like weighing in on the many festival posters that pop-up around the region throughout the year; so here is the 2014  Avocado Festival poster. This was the result of an open creative call and the winning artist is graphic designer Charles West. “This is a no-brainer,” said West. “Just turn an avocado into a guitar.” Your thoughts? Avotar05c

The 28th Annual Avocado Festival takes place in Carpinteria October 3rd – 5th.

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San Rafael Wilderness, America’s First

By John McKinney, Outdoor Editor. Follow the Trailmaster on Facebook.

The Wilderness Act celebrated its 50th anniversary on September 3, 2014, and my first thoughts are with the first Wilderness set aside by this amazing piece of legislation: the San Rafael Wilderness.

Interpretive sign near Manzana Creek describes the 25th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964. Time to celebrate the 50th anniversary with a new sign!

Interpretive sign near Manzana Creek describes the 25th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964. Time to celebrate the 50th anniversary with a new sign!

The San Rafael Wilderness also happens to be the one closest to my home. It’s about 16 miles as the condor flies from downtown Santa Barbara to the southern boundary of the San Rafael and about 25 miles to NIRA Campground, a popular trailhead for hikes into the wilderness. The Wilderness Act first protected some 9 million acres of America’s wild lands as official Wilderness. Many more wondrous wild lands have been added to the national wilderness system, and today about 110 million acres of mountains, desert, forest and seashore are part of the nation’s natural heritage.

The 197,380-acre wilderness includes two parallel mountain ranges, the San Rafael Mountains and Sierra Madre Mountains and two major waterways, the Sisquoc River and Manzana Creek, which eventually merge and flow into the ocean near Santa Maria.

Hit the trail into the San Rafael Wilderness (one of America’s first designated wilderness areas), located in Los Padres National Forest about 25 miles as the condor flies from Santa Barbara, California.

Hit the trail into the San Rafael Wilderness (one of America’s first designated wilderness areas), located in Los Padres National Forest about 25 miles as the condor flies from Santa Barbara, California.

The hiking along Manazana Creek is pretty mellow—a good day hike or fine family weekend backpack adventure. For something more challenging, hike along Hurricane Deck, a rugged 15-mile long sandstone ridge that divides the drainages of Manzana Creek and the Siquoc River.

“San Rafael is rocky, rugged, wooded and lonely,” President Lyndon B. Johnson remarked when he signed the San Rafael Wilderness bill on March 21, 1968. “I believe it will enrich the spirit of America.”

Certainly Santa Barbarans—at least those who’ve explored the Los Padres National Forest backcountry—have been enriched by our nearby wilderness.

Fortunate is he or she who has camped along the Manzana River, hiked the awesome and austere Hurricane Deck and sighted a condor soaring high over the oak-dotted potreros and chaparral.

It is altogether fitting that we give thanks for wilderness, refuges for Nature primeval and places that uplift the human spirit.

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Peaceful Evening on the Water

Santa Barbara photo to start the week, by Bill Heller (click to enlarge).

Peaceful Evening on the Water

I love to walk on the beach and at the harbor and look at all the boats. There are a wide variety of amazing crafts around Santa Barbara, but the sailboats have to be my favorites. It’s been a long time since I’ve been sailing, and I’m pretty sure I’d have trouble living full time on one. But it sure looks like a nice relaxing way to spend the sunset hours. Someday soon I’m going to find the time to spend more time out on the water -Bill Heller

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EcoFacts: Coffee Culture

Weekly column by Barbara Hirsch

Coffee culture – sure is different than it was 50 years ago, that coffee that was poured in homes and coffee shops. Now, 83% of Americans drink coffee, 63% daily, and a third of all Americans drink a “gourmet coffee beverage” every day!

The soaring demands for it mean that much more of it is grown, and as usual, that means a greater impact. On us, perhaps, but certainly on thousands more acres of ecosystems. The best quality coffees are still shade grown in plantations with canopies that support wildlife, prevent soil degradation and can mitigate effects of climate change. Now more coffee is grown in direct sun, as a monoculture, and with the effects that come with this kind of agriculture – forest clearing, pesticide use, soil depletion, etc..

And then there are those disposable cups… Starbucks sells 4 billion of them in a year.

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Please allow me a small leap here, to suggest that Starbucks is a center of coffee culture, in its 20,000 stores around the world. Here is a glimpse of where they stand on their environmental goals for 2015 and accomplishments, as of last year. Their environmental failures are still better than most of their counterparts’ accomplishments.

By 2015, Starbucks wants to reduce energy use by 25% , by 2013 the reduction was 7.1%. They are on track to make 100% of their coffee ethically sourced. The goal is 5% of beverages to be served in personal tumblers and last year, they were at 1.8%.
Front of store recycling is in 39% of their stores.

But there is not much to recycle, as the cups are not recyclable.

“Recycling seems like a simple, straightforward initiative,” the company said in a statement last week. “But it’s actually quite challenging.” If consumers can be made to understand how the company came to that humbling insight, they might stop buying and throwing away so many paper cups in the first place.” That, direct from Starbucks.

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Local Views of Santa Barbara, California

I walked through a part of Santa Barbara City College this afternoon and saw some interesting images. - Dan Seibert

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Turning Trashcans into Art? Yes We Can! on Milpas

Milpas on the Move, by Sharon Byrne

When you’re working on urban revitalization, you often hit those pesky problems for which traditional answers just don’t work. In a town of lovely stucco white walls, mandated for a continuity of never-ending Mission Revival rooftops, graffiti is a persistent plague. Apparently, vandals see those lovely white walls not so much as planning standards, but as wonderful canvasses, just waiting to be splattered.

blighted can on Milpas

blighted can on Milpas

We’ve hit that same problem with our public trash cans. They just seem to be blight magnets, darn it.

Even more vexing is the trash we find scattered along the sidewalks, often achingly close to the trash bins. We have some great block captains on Milpas that make it a point to get out there and pick up trash. We even have a homeless guy that does it. Mental note to pay that guy…

But the majority of the problem is sandwiched between Haley and Canon Perdido, which also happens to be the major corridor for the junior high and high school kids. Little wonder then that what we find on the sidewalks is candy wrappers, empty potato chip packages, and the like.

So we’re taking a creative approach here on Milpas, and are asking the city to let us do something kinda’ crazy cool: how about we get our area kids to do artwork on themes around a healthy, clean community? How about we buy them art supplies to do it? And when they produce that art, what if we photograph it or scan it at high resolution, enlarge it, and print it to vinyl banner that fits the circumference and height of the cans? And how about we do all that, on our nickel as a community, at no cost to the city? Replacing those cans is darned expensive, up to $2,000 per can. With 42 of them on Milpas, that’s a hefty bill, right? So why not let the community step up to address the problem, and provide a solution?

We’d fix our littering problem with positive messaging, on the cans, by youth, for youth. We’d give Milpas an instant facelift. We’d turn our street into an instant art gallery for all the great art programs for kids in this community, and there are some serious rock stars on that front.

So we asked the neighborhood, what do you think? Should we do it? The answer was resoundingly YES! So we got right on it.

We’ve been pretty cautious in our approach, because we’re not a bunch of artists. We’re neighborhood folks, businesses and residents, looking to make improvements here. We expected to learn things on the journey.

We approached Casa de la Raza about doing a prototype for us, and they were totally enthused to produce the first wave of art through their summer youth program.

asa de la Raza youth team producing yes we can! Prototype art

Casa de la Raza youth team producing yes we can! Prototype
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Stellar volunteer Ben Stafford photographed their art, at high resolution, and assembled it into a banner using photoshop.

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Ben photographs the art for the prototype

Here’s the prototype proof before printing:

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Then it was time to print and test the prototype on the cans. Pretty good!

MCA Board Member Paul Gifford tests the prototype on a Milpas trash can

MCA Board Member Paul Gifford tests the prototype on a Milpas
trash can

We’ve had terrific support and advice from Ginny Brush of the County Arts Commission, and they provided one of the grants for this project. Boys and Girls Club of Santa Barbara is producing the first round of art for the cans. Franklin Elementary ICAN, the Visual Arts and Design Academy at the high school, the Jr. High arts program, and Adalente will also be tapped for art. Businesses are getting excited about the project. The city is working out the details with us of how we mount the banners on the cans, maintain them, and replace if needed, as it is a temporary art project.

Now it’s time to present it before the Architectural Board of Review, and hope they say yes to the Yes We Can! turn our trashcans into art project. Here’s hoping!

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Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Santa Barbara

AVONThe Avon Walk for Breast Cancer is this Saturday; here’s the link for information along with the Santa Barbara map. The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer is focused on improving breast cancer survival rates, funding breakthrough research, and providing vital care for low-income and under-insured patients.

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All About Hendry’s, I mean The Pit, I mean Arroyo Burro Beach Park – Out and About with SBGirl

IMG_0255If you’re a local you probably just call it Hendry’s but the official name of this free county beach has been “Arroyo Burro Beach Park” since 1947 when the county purchased six acres at the terminus of Arroyo Burro Creek from the State of California and leased an additional adjacent 6.8 acres. In 1968, the State granted the leased land to the County and today it’s one of the best family-friendly, not to mention dog-friendly, beaches in Santa Barbara.

Surfers call this beach “The Pit”. Not because the Spanish word Arroyo means gutter or pit (it does), or because people used to dig big pits in the sand on the fourth of July (they did), it’s because since the 1960s local surfers affectionately have referred to the generally poor surf here as being “the pits”!

As to why locals have long called it “Hendry’s”, well that’s probably a matter of tradition. And as we all know, Santa Barbara is very much about tradition! William and Anne Hendry (née Stronach) were Scottish immigrants who migrated to Santa Barbara from Aberdeen, Scotland. They happened to own a farm near the intersection of Wade and Alan Rd, just off Cliff Drive in the early 1880s. Even though the County named it Arroyo Burro Beach Park in the 40s the locals kept calling it Hendry’s. And the rest, as they say, is history. William and Anne had 12 children and some of their descendants live in Santa Barbara to this day.

birdIn addition to being a great place to walk, jog, play in the water, make sand castles, watch the hang gliders at Elings Park, explore tide pools, marvel at the majestic cliffs, bird watch, take in the extraordinary landscape, enjoy a sunset, etc., the Park is the entrance to the only legal off-leash dog beach in Santa Barbara. Dogs are required to be on leash through the parking lot and on the public beach in front of the lot, but after passing Arroyo Burro Slough on the left, dogs are welcome to run free and play in the surf. This part of the beach actually belongs to the City of Barbara and some dog owners call it the “best dog beach in the world”.

I don’t have a dog, and I still come to this beach every chance I get!

Hendry’s is located 5 miles west of Santa Barbara’s city center on Cliff Drive near Hope Ranch. From Highway 101 take Las Positas Road south to Cliff Drive. Turn right and travel 1/2 mile to the park entrance. Parking can be crazy, so try taking the bus. MTD Line 5, 17 minutes from the transit center. The Park is open 8:00 AM to Sunset daily. Enjoy!

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Getting Schooled: Educators

By Cheri Rae

cherilogoWhile parents and students stand in line for new school supplies at Staples and Office Max, teachers have been in their classrooms, preparing for the start of a new school year. Moving furniture, arranging shelves, decorating walls, and attending meetings and training sessions are all part of their end-of-summer routines

And every year, before the beginning of classes, Santa Barbara Unified School District hosts an all-day, all-educator, in-service day. It’s all-hands on deck, with Superintendent Dr. David Cash setting the tone with a welcome to the huge gathering of new and returning staff at 8:00 a.m. sharp.

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Dr. David Cash

His enthusiasm for the event was once again obvious on August 21, as he addressed the group that filled the auditorium at San Marcos High School. He ticked off major goals: Implementation of Common Core, developing technology learning environments and embracing culturally proficient classrooms and district awareness.

Beyond that, he sounded very bit the educational innovator and forward-thinker that has characterized his three years of leading the district. He stated, “Technology is not a tool, it is the way kids learn.” He asserted, “We are 14 years in to the 21st century.” And prodded, “What are the skills we expect our students to have?” And more than anything, he urged teachers to “Think outside the box,” to “encourage problem-solving by students, to believe in each other.”

He even quoted Sir Kenneth Robinson, “Creativity is as important now in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.”

He finished up noting, “The intelligence of our students is diverse and dynamic,” encouraging teachers to “Celebrate the incredible work you have done this past year,” and enthused, “I am really excited to see what happens this year!”

With that, he sent the educators off to choose among more than 60 different workshops for the day—ranging from Understanding Benefits to Mental Health Awareness; from Four Agreements for Teachers to Differentiated Instruction; from Building Lasting Relationships with Students to Grill the Superintendent.

I participated in several workshop, including onepresented by Just Communities. Titled “One Room, Many Voices: Planning Cross-Language Communication,” it raised my awareness about the challenges that are posed to non-English speakers when they interact with the schools. The difficulties of needing translation services and the feeling of “other, were demonstrated in a memorable way when we were instructed, “If you aren’t bilingual, you need to get a headset.” Much enlightenment and many lessons in sensitivity were learned in that session.

This was the second year I was privileged to present a discussion about dyslexia; last year about a dozen educators joined in. This year there were more than 30 in the room—and they included a school board member; a principal; an athletics director; several teachers and counselors—from elementary through high school; special education personnel and administrators. In short, a cross-section of the education community, all motivated and interested to learn more about this very common learning difference that affects 1 in 5 individuals. It was a lively session about life in DyslexiaLand, as I call it, with engaged individuals who asked good questions and indicated they want to know even more to help their students succeed. Even after lunch, they were enthusiastic participants who expressed their appreciation for the new insights.

That was the greatest part of the entire day: the sense of teamwork and positivity, the encouragement of innovation and creativity and the understanding that there is a whole spectrum of education-related issues that need to be understood because they affect everyone.

The day ended with a closing session focused on district changes in HR expectations and Disciplinary processes, and was topped off with an inspirational video that encouraged viewers to stand tall, stand together, to trust yourself and trust each other. And one last comment by Dr. Cash, who boomed, “Let’s have a great year!”

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes the combined efforts of an entire district—and a supportive community—working together to educate each one. These days, the district’s motto of “Every Child, Every Chance, Every Day” seems more like a reality than a lofty goal.

I, for one, feel privileged to be a part of it.  _____________________________________________________

Note: Cheri Rae works with the Santa Barbara Unified School District on a limited basis as a consultant on dyslexia-related matters and to facilitate use of the Parent Resource Center—including weekly meetings on Thursdays, 5-6:30—at the district office.

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Santa Barbara Chamber Says No on Measure P

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The Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce urges its members to vote “no” on Measure P on the November 2014 ballot. This position was taken following two lengthy presentations to the chamber’s Government Relations Council from the proponents and opponents of Measure P. The GRC voted unanimously to recommend that the chamber oppose Measure P.

The chamber’s position is based on the following concerns:

First: The ballot measure is written in a way that is likely to mislead voters. Its title says that it is a ban on “fracking.” This is misleading for two reasons: there is no fracking in Santa Barbara County and, in addition, the ballot measure also prohibits many other forms of oil and gas extraction. A voter would have to read the entirety of the lengthy and complicated measure to understand that its impact is far greater than suggested by the title.

Second: Measure P is not necessary or appropriate. It prohibits oil and gas production techniques that have been used safely and responsibly in Santa Barbara County for many decades. There is no significant evidence that these techniques — including using steam made from undrinkable water — are likely to cause adverse environmental or health impacts.

Third: Measure P is likely to result in shutting down existing oil and gas operations in Santa Barbara County. An impartial analysis prepared by Santa Barbara County found that 100 percent of the active oil and gas wells currently use one or more of the production techniques prohibited by Measure P.

While the proponents of Measure P assert that existing oil and gas operations are not going to be closed, the ballot measure’s language does not support this claim. If the drafters of the measure intended to allow existing operations to continue, they could and should have included language clearly so stating. It is unfortunate that this major defect in the language of the ballot measure cannot be cured.

Fourth: Measure P is likely to have a significant adverse impact on the local economy. The energy industry estimates that Measure P could result in a loss of $291 million to the local economy. More than a thousand jobs — mostly well-paid, blue-collar positions — would be lost. There is a ripple effect when an industry loses so many jobs, because the newly unemployed can no longer buy groceries, pay rent, buy clothes, and otherwise contribute to the local economy.

Fifth: Measure P will have a significant impact on public services. The county’s impartial analysis found that in 2013 the county received $16.4 million in revenues from onshore oil and gas production. Of this amount, the schools received $10.2 million and fire services received $2.1 million.

Legal experts, including the county counsel, are predicting a great deal of litigation over Measure P. In addition, the county is facing substantial liability from the owners of mineral rights who have a legal right to claim that Measure P results in a “taking” of their property, thus entitling them to sue for damages. The county’s liability for damages and litigation expenses could exceed $100 million.

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Santa Barbara Straw Poll

With two months to go before election day, Santa Barbara View asks… how will you likely vote on Measure P, the Santa Barbara County Fracking Ban Initiative?

If approved, this measure would prohibit what are called “high intensity” oil and gas operations such as fracking, acid well stimulation treatments and cyclic steam injection. The measure would not impede conventional drilling or “low intensity” operations.

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Fall Cruise Ship Season in Santa Barbara

It’s September in Santa Barbara… which means the fall cruise ship season is upon us. Over the next three months, eleven (11) cruise ships will come to town with passengers disembarking at Sea Landing and flowing into downtown shops and businesses from approximately 8 am to 4 pm. Here is the official fall season calendar, 2014:

  • Friday, September 19 Crown Princess
  • Wednesday, September 24 Crown Princess
  • Saturday, September 27 Grand Princess
  • Tuesday, September 30 Golden Princess
  • Wednesday, October 1 Crown Princess
  • Wednesday, October 8 Crown Princess
  • Wednesday, October 15 Crown Princess
  • Monday, October 16 Star Princess
  • Monday, October 23 Star Princess
  • Friday, October 31 Golden Princess
  • Friday November 28 Golden Princess

As always, volunteers are needed to help staff the hospitality tents set up as passengers get off the tenders at Sea Landing. Volunteers welcome passengers and offer information about Santa Barbara. Information will be available on what to do and see, where to shop and dine and how best to get to where they are going. The shifts are: 8 am – 11 am, 9:30 am-12:30 pm and 11 am – 2:30 pm. The early shift will help with unpacking literature and the last shift will help repack.  To sign up to volunteer for cruise ships, click here.
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Heaven and Earth

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
Heaven and Earth
Every evening as we go about our lives there is an amazing ballet going on above our heads. Most of us are too busy to think about it. But if you take some time to get away from the brighter lights of the city you can see some spectacular things just by looking up. This is the the beautiful Santa Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, under the equally beautiful Milky Way Galaxy. The Galaxy we call home. If you think of all those stars at night that you usually see from any location, they are in general just our local neighbors in a small part of the Milky Way. All the visible stars you can make out with your naked eye in every direction from the earth (anywhere between five to ten thousand stars give or take) only comprise a tiny fraction of the stars in the Milky Way. That glowing band however, is made up of individual stars so numerous that they appear to be a continuous cloud of light to the unaided eye. Estimates put it from one to four hundred billion stars. There are absolutely wondrous and beautiful things all around us!

-Bill Heller

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