On Saturday, advocates for renewable energy across the US and around the world joined hands at hundreds of events to call for an economy free of fossil fuels. At events in thirty-nine states and in places as far away as South Africa and New Zealand, people gathered on beaches and in other iconic spots for the second annual Hands Across the Sand Event.
At noon in whatever time zone they were in, members of Hands Across the Sand groups joined hands to form a human line, which in many cases paralleled the edge of the ocean. For fifteen minutes each group stood holding hands as if protecting the beach from harm, making a visual statement of opposition to offshore and other types of fossil fuel extraction.
“We are joining hands to say No to offshore oil drilling and Yes to Clean Energy,” said Hands Across the Sand founder, Dave Rauschkolb. “We are joining hands to end our dependence on oil and coal and embrace a clean energy future for a sustainable planet.”
More than a year after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Hands Across the Sand serves as a reminder that the United States and most other countries remain nearly as dependent on fossil fuels as they were at the time of the disaster, and that coastlines around the world are still endangered by risks associated with oil drilling and other activities related to the fossil fuel industries.
According to the mission statement for Hand Across the Sand, event participants were determined “To convince our State Legislators, Governors, Congress and President Obama and world leaders to adopt policies encouraging the growth of clean and renewable energy sources in place of oil and coal.”
Though the BP spill is the best-known recent example of how fossil fuel extraction threatens coasts and beaches, the original idea for Hands Across the Sand predates the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The first Hands Across the Sand day of action was a statewide event held in Florida on February 13th, 2010. On that day 10,000 Florida residents joined hands on more than ninety beaches around the state to protest moves by Congress and the state legislature to remove a ban on near and offshore oil drilling in Florida waters.
Mere months after the Florida event, the BP disaster catapulted debates about offshore drilling into the public spotlight. By late May environmental groups had decided to try to replicate the Florida campaign at a national level, and within four weeks more than 1,000 groups signed up. On June 26, 2010, the first international Hands Across the Sand event saw people join hands against oil, and for clean energy, in all fifty US states and in 42 other countries.
A year after that first event Congress hasn’t done much to increase offshore drilling oversight or reduce US dependence on oil, but the movement to shift away from fossil fuels is still strong. To take one instance, at TradeWinds Island Resort in Florida, more than 400 people joined hands and formed a line along the beach at a popular tourist destination that could be irreparably harmed by an offshore drilling spill.
On the opposite side of the North American continent a few hours later, beach supporters came together for a similar event at another spot important to the tourist industry: Angel Island, California. These are just a couple of hundreds of Hands Across the Sands actions that spanned the United States and the world on Saturday.
“I couldn’t be more pleased,” said Rauschkolb at a Hands Across the Sands event in Seaside, Florida. “We’ve had events all across the world that started in New Zealand, swept across Europe, then the East Coast, and now all the way on to Hawaii. We’ve got thousands of people joining hands to embrace clean energy, to compel our leaders to embrace clean energy and steer away from the dirty fuel money that is influencing our energy policy.”
Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/nataliemaynor/4736629161/sizes/m/in/photostream/