Hands across the sand: A day of hope amid disaster

HAS 01Across the US and in countries from Greenland to New Zealand, citizens gathered on beaches linking hands and standing quietly to show their opposition to offshore drilling for oil and their support for clean energy development. Founded “” ironically, before the Deepwater Horizon disaster “” by Florida restaurateur and surfer Dave Rauschkolb, the Hands Across the Sand movement blossomed rapidly in four short months, undoubtedly fueled by the two-month-old specter of tens of thousands of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.

Sarah Busch, intern for the energy team at American Progress and Shirley Gregory, a Gulf coast resident who blogs at Gulf Oil Monitor, share their experiences participating in simultaneous rallies in Washington and Navarre, Florida.

On the Florida coast…

HAS 02For a region that’s had so many reasons to feel disheartened over recent months and years, this Saturday gave Gulf Coast residents something to buoy their spirits, if only for a few precious hours.

In Navarre, Florida “” just east of Pensacola “” some 200 people came together on a picture-perfect, if typically hot and steamy, beach day to send a message against drilling in the Gulf. Ranging from local old-time residents to families with young children here on vacation, participants chatted and joked, held hands and took photos, creating an atmosphere that was anything but somber. There was even free beer for a few hours afterward at the favorite beach watering hole, Juana’s Pagodas.

Below the surface, though, the people here are hurting. As if the economy weren’t already bad enough, the oil spill has become the latest reason employers give for not hiring, said several people who’ve been unemployed for a long time. Restaurants and shops dependent on beach-goers are seeing business shrivel with every passing day. And if the real estate market is still struggling everywhere, down here, the Gulf disaster has delivered an additional, wicked blow.HAS 03

It’s a tough situation for an area just beginning to bounce back from so many recent storms: 2004″²s Ivan, 2005″²s Dennis and Katrina and Rita, 2008″²s real-estate bubble burst. Nobody needed yet another storm named Macondo “¦ certainly not as another hurricane season now gets under way.

For all the subsurface gloom, though “” below the skin and below the sea “” Saturday’s demonstration offered a bit of hope. It proved that a handful of people working their butts off (“small people,” some of the participants joked, referring to BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg’s recent reference to Gulf residents), to the point they were losing their voices, could do something big, too, could organize something positive and constructive aimed at making a difference.

In the face of the Gulf’s current circumstances, for one day, at least, that was good enough.

— Shirley Gregory

Meanwhile, in Washington…


“HEY.  HEY!  HO.  HO!  OFFSHORE DRILLING HAS GOT TO GO!”  Far from the coastline, but at the forefront of the nation’s offshore drilling debate, a group of chanting activists held hands to forma a human chain against Big Oil at the White House on Saturday morning.  The protest shined brightly with clean energy hopes, shouting out against BP and the devastation caused by erratic, unchecked offshore drilling.

Joined with members of the public and other environmental groups, the “Hands Across the Sand” demonstration amounted to about 150 anti-drilling voices, mostly young people.  The group created some heavy, unsavory noise pollution in the ears of the oil industry, holding the words “clean energy” up high on signs and in their hearts.  On shorelines of the oil-soaked Gulf, as well as in land-locked cities across the country, over 600 similar events took place; this largest coordination of movements against the BP oil spill to date!  Thousands joined hands at noon to tell Big Oil, politicians, and other members of the public that they are done – “It’s dirty oil’s time to GO.”

“The fossil fuel economy is failing us,” one young activist declared through a megaphone.  “As the youth that are going to inherit this world, we need to stand up…we have incredible power.”

In Washington, the majority of the participants were young people, showing America the next generation that will bear the burden of our incessant fossil fuel addiction.  Organizers of the DC mobilization, the Energy Action Coalition, duly dubs itself the “hub of the youth climate movement.”  The coalition is composed of 50 youth-led groups addressing environmental and social justice.  At the “Hands Across the Sand” event in DC, this group was demanding clean, green energy and the end all handouts to Big Oil.

At the political shoreline of the nation, the group handed out green “energy” hard-hats, sending a message that a clean energy economy will take work, but they are going to get this job done.  The youth are mobilized, when will Washington come down to meet then at the shores of a new clean energy future?

— Sarah Busch,

3 Responses to Hands across the sand: A day of hope amid disaster

  1. Mark Shapiro says:

    Thank you to Sarah and Shirley and to all the hand holders.

    Clean energy now!

  2. William says:

    Isn’t it a little bit ironic to protest against petrol and to have at the same time a plastic water bottle at the feet of each hand holder?!

  3. Liam Crotty says:

    Just wanted to share with everyone the incredible turnout we had in Miami Beach and here are some cool photos I captured of the day: