California Coastal Commission's logo.
California Coastal Commission’s logo.

The world’s greatest promoter, at least before Ryan Seacrest came along, was P.T. Barnum. The man’s a hero of mine. You have to love a guy who figured out how to get people to move quicker by posting a sign that read, “This Way To The Great Egress.”

He was a publisher, author, politician and visionary. He was an abolitionist, a capitalist and a philanthropist.

He is credited with saying, “Without promotion something terrible happens … Nothing!”

So on top of all his other contributions to society, he was also a business coach. But his point is correct. No matter what you do, if no one knows about it, you can’t be very effective.

I could be the greatest father’s rights attorney in the western hemisphere, but if I just stay in my little office and don’t share that gift with the world, what’s the point? I’ve written four books and I have two more in development, but if no one knows about them, then my work has been for naught.

So while I both cringe and get jealous every time a self-promoter grabs a headline — I read the headline. It’s crucial to the development of any business or project to have outreach.

The question is how to best conduct that outreach?

There are many ways to get people to hear your message. The use of inflammatory tactics like those used by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals when they feature naked people wrapped in plastic as if they were steaks in a grocery store, work. I remembered their event and though it didn’t change my mind, it made an impression. The slow drip method of constant presence everywhere used by the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which has turned the world pink to promote their cause, is a more subtle campaign.

Sometimes it takes a grass roots effort through the ballot box to get initial exposure which leads to long term recognition.

That is what happened with the cause to protect California’s coastline. In the late 1960s, there was rampant development, lack of regulatory control and a huge environmental disaster which boiled over into a tragedy to be the spark of a movement.

This is what happened in 1969 when a Santa Barbara oil spill led to Proposition 20, which created the California Coastal Commission in 1972. The CCC is both nemesis and protector. To developers who wish to grab land and build as big and expensive as possible, the CCC is a body that puts up roadblocks and delays so-called “progress.” But to the general public, the public that barely even knows that the CCC exists, they are protector of that California Dreamin’ lifestyle that we so enjoy.

The history of the CCC is rooted in conservationists and environmentalists who knew that “something” had to be done because “nothing” was going to lead to the destruction of public access to the beaches, or worse, the destruction of beaches by environmental disasters like that in Santa Barbara. It was the Deepwater Horizon of its day. It still ranks as the third largest spill in U.S. waters, after Deepwater and the Valdez.

But it was the spark that led to the modern environmentalist movement. Those environmental leaders are getting up there in age but luckily someone has recorded their experiences and history on videotape.

Janet Bridgers co-founded Earth Alert! With Patrick Wall to educate the public about environmental issues. Earth Alert! is a nonprofit that uses media to promote their cause. In producing the documentary “Heroes of the Coast” — a film which tells the story of 50 years of California coastline protection through interviews and archival footage, they are promoting the history and protecting the future of our coastline. The documentary is based on the “Heroes of the Coast” video archive of 59 interviews with California coastal activists, Coastal Commission staff and those who were there at the 1969 oil spill. This story of our coastline’s heroes is an important time capsule.

The documentary is being previewed this Thursday at the Santa Monica Main Library (601 Santa Monica Blvd.) at 7 p.m. in a free public presentation.

Because heroes need to be recognized and nothing happens without promotion, I wanted to contribute to the public awareness of this documentary and the strong message it sends of the need for constant vigilance when it comes to our natural treasures.



David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at or (310) 664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra

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