Hands Across the Sand: The biggest grassroots phenomenon since Earth Day

[image-1]On Saturday, those numbers were much higher, at least double or triple in Florida, and tens of thousands more at over 900 events in the U.S. and worldwide. In Pinellas and Tampa alone, there were close to 7,000 people joining Hands. There were thousands along Siesta Key Beach, Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Cocoa Beach. Those final numbers are being gathered from across the globe as I write this, and will continue to be posted on the Hands website at www.handsacrossthesand.com, its Facebook page, and at www.suncoastsierra.org.


On St. Pete Beach, a solid line of supporters stretched from Upham Beach, the Tradewinds and Sirata Resorts at the north end through the public beach across from Dolphin Village, and from the Don CeSar to the tip of Pass-a-Grille, totaling 2600 people. The atmosphere was part carnival and part funeral -- something akin to the Irish wakes I attended as a young girl. We celebrate the beauty of life along the Gulf of Mexico, the jewel we suddenly find we prize above all others. At the same time, we mourn for the loss of that life, and of all the lives that depend on it: animals, fish, our own. To take action in this netherworld of old and new requires the leadership and commitment of the most stalwart among us. And that’s who showed up on Saturday.


At the three locations in Indian Rocks Beach, 1100 people stood together. Clearwater Beach’s two locations brought out 625, Gulfport rocked it with 465, Dunedin Causeway had 300, Madeira and Redington Beaches were over 200 each, and Treasure Island’s student groups from USF and St. Pete College had over 400. Every other Hands location had over 100 people, including Crystal Beach, Honeymoon Island, Hudson Beach, Ft. DeSoto, Spa Beach in St. Petersburg, and the Gandy Bridge, where Kendrick Meek rolled up his pant legs and joined Hands.


At the pre-Hands press conference at the Tradewinds on Saturday, Keith Overton, COO of the Tradewinds Resorts and Chair of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association said, "Florida has suffered losses in the billions"..."Many people out there who represent us who don’t get it, going after oil and gas off our shores just doesn’t make sense."


Bill McCormick, 95-year old native of Pass-a-Grille answered the question “Why am I here?” “I’m here to protest the oiling, oil wells we have on our coastline.” Mr. McCormick represented the oldest of four generations of his family who united to join Hands for a new future.


Congressman Bill Young, creator and longtime protector of the 234 mile drilling buffer zone off Pinellas county, with a gift for understatement told us that a task force of the Coast Guard, USGS, University of South Florida, BP employees, and Pinellas County Emergency Response had been formed “in case the threat to our beaches becomes serious”. The Congressman went on to say that Secretary of the Navy Bill Mavis has been appointed as the oil spill and cleanup Czar, and the Secretary has said he wants to “work with us to prevent more damage”. Congressman Young has invited Secretary Mavis to meet with community leaders and the task force in Tampa Bay. I’d say it’s just about time for that meeting, wouldn’t you?


Senator Bill Nelson’s Regional Director, Shahra Anderson quoted Nobel Prize-winning Physicist Richard Feynman who said: “For successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.” She went on to quote the Senator as he said: “Judging by recent events, it’s more true than ever. We must prompt the President and all lawmakers to call for a halt to the industry’s push for drilling in new offshore areas. The ultimate answer to America’s energy needs lie not in oil but in the rapid development of alternative fuels and energy solutions. And one way to pay for that is by ending the billions of dollars in giveaways to Big Oil. No matter what, Big Oil pays for what it’s doing to our waters, our land, to our people and to our future.”


State Representatives Rick Kriseman and State Senator Dan Gelber (Miami) are calling for a special session of the Florida Legislature to create a constitutional amendment for this November’s ballot to put an end to the threat of coastal drilling forever. Pinellas County Commissioners Calvin Harris and Ken Welch, along with Seminole City Councilmember Patricia Plantamura also spoke eloquently about the commitment to a clean energy future, a future that does not depend on dirty and dangerous oil. Lenne Nicklaus-Ball, owner of the Sirata Beach Resort and St. Petersburg City Councilmember Karl Nurse called for clean energy now and asked all present, "What are we waiting for?"


These leaders are not from the environmental choir, they are the congregation and beyond -- business owners and policymakers dealing very often from a position of compromise, from a position of “public relations” vs, reality. This is what makes Hands so powerful, the awakening of America to the new paradigm of energy and of how we will begin to change the conduct of our lives. This is the dawn of that misty future.


Environmental speakers, Dan Cannon, Florida Organizer for the Southern Energy Network spoke on behalf of the Millenials, said there are two sides to this story. The Millenials, those born between 1980 and 2000, are calling for moving forward to a clean, safe energy economy with policies that will bring much-needed clean energy jobs. The other side represents more of the same. Those who want to continue the current, dangerous policies that impact our communities, our natural environment and our global climate. Leadership from the grassroots deserves to be matched with leadership from our local, state and federal decision-makers. The Millenials are ready for a clean and safe energy future.


Frank Jackalone, Senior Field Director for the Sierra Club in Florida and Puerto Rico cites Hands as a massive outpouring for clean energy around the country and the world. "This is an apocalypse for the Gulf of Mexico. Hands Across the Sand represents a new future for America and the World. We say no to offshore drilling, and most of all, we must say yes to clean energy -- the power of the sun, the wind and the waves -- immediately, not some day in the future. We need to move beyond oil today, here and now."


For the last 40 years, we’ve been talking about energy, about dependence on foreign oil, about solar power and about using our innovation to lift the oppressive yoke of oil and fossil fuels. We are the change we’ve been waiting for. Our


clean energy future starts now. Call Governor Crist (850-488-7146) and demand a special session for an end to the threat of coastal drilling, and for a renewable energy target portfolio for Florida. Call President Obama (202-456-1111) and ask him to stop new drilling and call for a shift of oil and gas subsidies to renewable energy innovation and construction now. Call U.S. Senator George Lemieux (813-977-6450) and demand an American Power Act with an end to fossil fuel subsidies and creation of a 20 year plan for moving to renewable energy. Carpool, take a bus, ride a bike, reduce and re-use plastic, grow food not lawns. Do it today.


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Hands Across the Sand is a grassroots phenomenon the likes of which we have not seen since the first Earth Day in April, 1970. Last Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people came to beaches, lakes and bridges across the planet (see videos below) to join hands together all because one man decided to draw a line in the sand to put a stop to drilling off Florida’s coast. Dave Rauschkolb, creator of Hands is a surfer and restaurant owner in the panhandle town of Seaside, Florida. He is a businessman, not the classic definition of “environmentalist”. And that is a basis of the story that has launched this mass awakening.

The first Hands event took place on a cold day in February, before the start of the Florida legislative session. The goal of the 3,000 people that showed up in Pinellas and the 10,000 on 80 Florida beaches was to stop Florida’s lawmakers from making a very big mistake by allowing drilling within 3-12 miles of our shores. Now, we are living in the miasma of the ‘worst that can happen’. Oil and dangerous gasses gush from the sea floor every moment — as we go about our daily lives, as we joined hands on Saturday, and as I write this. BP failed to live up to its contract of safety. MMS failed to enforce that contract. Our government does not have the know-how to stop the gusher, the oil industry seems unable to stop it, and the “clean-up” is fraught with dangerous dispersants with unknown toxic effect. We have poked and prodded and disregarded the Earth that nurtures and feeds us. We have burned and consumed and destroyed — most, not from malice, but from a “necessity” that was created by money and power.

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