Take a look back 51 years ago into Chico State’s digitized newspaper archives to reflect on campus’ commitment to sustainability. The worldwide activism of the 1960s also had an influence in Chico, and students were responding to those changes. A group of ecologically minded students organized a week of activities around the first annual Earth Day, naming it Survival Faire. In this 1970 Wildcat student newspaper, the editors note that during the month of April student organizers had three major events planned: the African Heritage festival, the Survival Faire, and Pioneer week. Campus was certainly buzzing with energy during this period. 

Remarkably, in April 1970, First Street was still open to automobile traffic, although this article outlines that the Chico City Council was open to a proposal to close First street, shifting a major Chico road to pedestrian-only foot traffic. 

On the first day of the Survival Faire, then President Robert HIll supported the environmentally minded students stating, “it is incumbent upon all of us to consider our environment and our effect upon it.” Alongside his remarks, Mayor Gordon Casamajor urged local citizenry to participate in the college teach-in. 

Early the next day, students demonstrated a desire to shift away from fossil fuels by taking apart a car parked in the middle of First Street. Demonstrators blocked traffic along First Street and Chestnut and participants were invited to take a swing at the vehicle in support of the movement. Chico police were called and removed the torn apart car with a fork-lift and a flatbed truck. Undeterred, Survival Faire organizers placed a platform stage where the car had been on Chestnut, where it remained for most of the afternoon. Throughout the late afternoon and into the evening police and students engaged in a dance; students would block traffic, drawing police to approach, and the obstruction would be dismantled. After the platform was removed a bonfire was started, which could not be easily extinguished. The crowd grew to 500 or more spectators and the police responded in-kind calling in support from Oroville. Under the threat of a dispersing agent made by the Police Chief, the students dispersed. An outline of these events was detailed in this special two page edition of the Wildcat, with student reactions, and several photographs. Sixteen people were arrested for felony conspiracy charges, one was a Sociology professor. 

The Survival Faire continued as planned, and the campus celebrated the next day as Earth Day, with a schedule of the week’s planned activities. In the following weeks and months, letters to the editor in the college newspaper warn of creeping fascism and lambast radical environmentalists for their destructive tactics.  First street was eventually restricted to pedestrian only access. 

This was a tumultuous time in American education. Less than a month later, there was a shooting at Kent State University which left several injured, and four students and the gunman dead. Local politics mirrored national ambivalence over the United State’s continued involvement in the Vietnam War. Patrons can read about all this and more in the digitized student newspaper collection on Chico Digital Collections.

-- Stefani L. Baldivia