This blog post was co-authored by Toni Reale and Jennifer Rennicks
On Saturday, June 26th tens of thousands of people gathered at more than 900 locations in 39 countries to be part of an event called Hands Across the Sand. The message was simple, clear and powerful: NO to offshore drilling and YES to a clean energy future that will end our addiction to oil and other fossil fuels. This worldwide event transcended social and political lines to become one of the biggest grassroots phenomenons since the first Earth Day in 1970.
The 26th of June marked the 68th day since the world’s most technologically-advanced deepwater drilling rig exploded, killing 11 people and injuring others. After burning for two days, the rig sank on April 22nd, ironically the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Since then, tens of millions of gallons of oil have spewed into the Gulf of Mexico and there is no definitive relief in sight. Thousands of square miles of ocean are devastated, shorelines and marshes are covered in tar and sludge, precious wildlife are dead and coastal communities, still recovering from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, are economically crippled.
Hands Across the Sand participants, such as those in this video montage developed by YouthNoise, came together on beaches to say “enough is enough.” The exact number of participants is still being calculated, but organizers in Florida estimate there were at least 20,000 people on Florida beaches alone, double the number who attended the original Hands Across the Sand events in February 2010.
The idea for Hands Across the Sand began with a restaurant owner in coastal Florida named Dave Rauschkolb who was sickened at the thought that some elected officials in Florida were considering drilling in state waters. In February of this year thousands of Floridians, dressed in black and representing 60 cities and over 90 beaches, joined hands to protest efforts by the Florida Legislature and the U.S. Congress to lift the long-standing ban on drilling offshore in Florida. Concerned citizens from Jacksonville to Miami Beach and Key West to Pensacola Beach joined in what was, at the time, the largest gathering in the history of Florida united against oil drilling.
In the days and weeks following the sinking of BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig, Dave Rauschkolb approached national and regional environmental groups, as well as the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, seeking support to make Hands Across the Sand a national event. Growing frustration over the oil disaster coupled with a sense of helplessness generated considerable support for Rauschkolb’s idea, and soon word spread and events were being planned in every state in the nation. At the time, no one considered that this idea might go global, and yet on June 26, the earliest events were held in far off places including Japan, Scotland, and Australia, which experienced its own offshore drilling disaster last fall.
The events on June 26th, from coastal communities on the front lines of this disaster, to concerned communities in America’s heartland and in India, clearly mark the beginning of a powerful movement. As the Gulf continues to bleed ribbons of red-orange oil, people all over the world grow more empowered to demand a clean energy future – a future that keeps our treasured coastal places in tact and harnesses clean energy solutions in response to the most horrific environmental catastrophe of our time.
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