Earth Alert, Inc., a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, began as International Eco Features Syndicate. "Eco Features'" first offering was an op-ed piece by-lined by Andy Lipkus, founder of TreePeople in Los Angeles. It was purchased by the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and appeared in December 1982.
In three years, Eco Features sold more than 100 articles, primarily in the U.S., but also in Canada, Mexico and Singapore, representing writers from all over the world to publications including New York magazine, the Long Island daily Newsday, the Los Angeles Times, the Sacramento Bee, Mother Earth News and numerous U.S. alternative newsweeklies.
In 1983 and 1984, Eco Features' stories were included in the list of "The 25 Most Underreported Stories of the Year," a national media research effort conducted annually by Project Censored, which identifies important news issues not widely covered by the national media. The first story concerned President Reagan's capitulation to Japan on enforcement of the Marine Mammal Protection Act; the second was about impending shortages of safe drinking water in the U.S.
Eco Features broke the story on pollution in Santa Monica Bay when a small item appeared in the July 11, 1984, L.A. Weekly. It was the first mention on the degree of pollution of Los Angeles-area coastal waters to appear in any of the local media. Coverage of the issue followed with a feature in the South Bay Easy Reader in January 1985. An op-ed by Patrick Wall, executive director of Earth Alert, appeared in the Los Angeles Times on May 12, 1985, resulting in a capacity crowd at a hearing the following day at which Los Angeles requested an extension of the 301(h) waiver to the Clean Water Act. The City anticipated that the waiver would allow it to continue to dump partially treated sewage into the bay, but the EPA turned down the request, accomplishing the first step in the long process to clean up Santa Monica Bay. More Eco Features stories in the L.A. Weekly and the San Diego Newsline kept the issue before the public.
In November 1984, the Internal Revenue Service granted tax-exempt status to Earth Alert, Inc., and Eco Features continued operations for another year under the Earth Alert! umbrella. At that time, Executive Director Patrick Wall's growing involvement with cable TV production gradually reduced the time devoted to Eco Features.
Over four years, Earth Alert! went from producing in-studio public-access TV shows to winning an Emmy award for a half-hour documentary on pollution in Marina del Rey. The show also won "Best Information" Public Access show in 1987. Among the many subjects covered by the Earth Alert public access show was the first presentation in 1984 of the issues confronting the Ballona wetlands.
For simple, low-budget productions, the programs had remarkable effectiveness. A few examples: the Marina del Rey pollution documentary was sent to County officials who made the decisions to help reverse the problem. A segment on the threatened destruction of the USC campus rose garden for a parking lot helped to prevent it. Another segment on the little-known presence of a nuclear reactor on the UCLA campus helped get it removed.
In November 2004, Earth Alert revived its public access TV show with the first of a series on Heroes of the Coast, an effort to document the contributions of some of the people who launched the successful initiative that created the Coastal Act and the California Coastal Commission. The first interview was with Ellen Stern Harris, one of the early Coastal Commissioners who is known as "the mother of the Coastal Act." Since then, over 60 coastal activists, Coastal Commissioners and Coastal Commission executive directors have been interviewed. In 2010, Earth Alert was awarded a grant by the California Coastal Commission to duplicate and distribute archival-quality copies of the interviews to coastal California university libraries.
In March of 2006 Earth Alert was awarded grant by the California Council for the Humanities to produce Sand Sun Oil + Gas, a half hour documentary on the history of offshore oil and gas production along the Santa Barbara Channel. Two subsequent documentaries have been produced, one on Ormond Beach in Oxnard, a critical coastal wetland (titled Ormond, Wetland Wonderland), and a second project funded by California Council for the Humanities on the many economic, recreational and cultural uses of the Santa Barbara Channel, entitled Sharing the Channel.
In 2011, Earth Alert received funding again from the California Council for the Humanities to produce Stories of the Spill, a documentary on the 1969 Santa Barbara oil blow out. Earth Alert worked with Toby Younis and Videotero to create the half hour high definition video.
In 2012, Earth Alert conducted a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund Heroes of the Coast the Documentary. And in 2013, it received a grant from the Coastal Commission to transcribe & upload the full interviews in the Heroes of the Coast video archive.
Earth Alert! has several recycling-related credits. It launched what became the municipal recycling program for the City of West Hollywood and was awarded a "Pat on the Back" Award by the California Department of Conservation, Division of Recycling, as well as a "Certificate of Commendation" by the West Hollywood City Council.
It suggested and helped implement the first U.S. directory publisher-sponsored telephone book recycling campaign. At the time, United Publishers of Los Angeles was a subsidiary of NYNEX, the "Baby Bell" company then providing service to New York and New England. NYNEX became aware of the program by seeing its publicity results and instituted a similar program. Within two years, major telephone companies all over the country had implemented telephone book recycling campaigns.
Since 2002, Earth Alert has been deeply involved in efforts to preserve Ormond Beach, called the most important wetland in Southern California. For decades, a handful of Ventura County’s activists have successfully battled to prevent development that would have turned this rare coastal wetland from viable wildlife habitat, with numerous endangered or threatened species, into housing, or a marina, or a parking lot for cars imported through the nearby Port of Hueneme. With the purchase of approximately 750 acres by the California Coastal Conservancy, many were ready to proceed to a restoration effort. But stalwarts believed that without 1500 acres preserved, the ability of the area to provide an adequately secure nesting area for Western Snowy Plovers and California Least Terns would ultimately diminish.
Bridgers has written numerous op-eds published in the Ventura County Star in support of coastal environmental issues, especially Ormond Beach. Learn more about the Ormond Project.
In 2006, in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Bridgers & Paxton Solar Building, Earth Alert established the Equinox Award in recognize efforts by an individual toward a sustainable economy. It was presented that year to Santa Fe architect Ed Mazria, founder of Architecture 2030, a non-profit, non-partisan and independent organization, established in 2002 in response to the climate change crisis. 2030’s mission is to rapidly transform the U.S. and global building sector from the major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions to a central part of the solution to the climate change, energy consumption, and economic crises. Its goal is to achieve a dramatic reduction in the climate-change-causing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the building sector by changing the way buildings and developments are planned, designed and constructed.
New Mexico Congressman Martin Heinrich (then Albuquerque City Council president) served as Master of Ceremonies on the event held on Sept. 21, 2006, hence the name, the Equinox Award.
In 2007, the Equinox Award was presented at a solar tea ceremony to Steve Baer of Albuquerque, founder, chairman of the board, president and director of research for Zomeworks. Baer studied mathematics and physics at Amherst College and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) and has been awarded many patents in the fields of structures, engines, passive controls and energy conservation products. Steve and his wife Holly have lived in their passively solar heated cluster of Zomes (rhombic dodecahedra), with Drum Walls, Skylids® and Sunbenders® near Albuquerque since 1970. Zomeworks’ most successful products have been the Track Rack™, a passive solar tracker for photovoltaics and the Cool Cell® temperature regulating enclosure, to protect and extend the life of batteries used with photovoltaic systems. Steve continues to work on new innovative products, including the Snap Cap™ metal collector roof for summer cooling.
The award was presented September 14, 2007, hosted by New Mexico State Senator Dede Feldman and emceed by Albuquerque City Councilman Issac Benton.
In 2009, the Equinox Award was presented to two California coastal activists in recognition of their successful efforts to prevent the permitting of an offshore liquefied natural gas off the coast of Oxnard and Malibu. They are Shannon McComb, who began testifying regularly against the project at age 13 and Owen Bailey, the Sierra Club organizer who played a major role in bringing together many diverse organizations throughout Ventura and Los Angeles Counties to join in the fight.
The award was presented by California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi in a ceremony hosted by Earth Alert and the Los Padres Chapter of the Sierra Club at an elegant brunch attended by many of the area’s environmental activists and elected officials.
This six-year phase following the release of Heroes of the Coast in 2012 was marked by illness and deaths among close associates of Earth Alert co-founder Janet Bridgers, including co-founder Patrick Wall’s death in 2014, and the decline and death of Janet’s mother, Jean Bridgers, in October 2019. Supporters may understand that it was not a period for a great deal of environmental work, although Janet remained active in the New Mexico Solar Energy Association until 2017 and in political campaigns throughout.
The clear evidence that climate change is happening worldwide, evidenced by catastrophic fires, floods and droughts, indicates that work to significantly slow climate change must take place at the highest levels of government. Consequently, Earth Alert has chosen to devote its energy and resources to protecting one relatively small, but critically important wetland, Ormond Beach.