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Hands Across the Sand Goes Global on June 26

June 24, 2010 by Lynn Nesmith

There will be a lot of hand holding on the beaches  Saturday, but what we really need is a group hug.

Hundreds of SoWal residents and tourists, as well as thousands of concerned citizens worldwide will gather along the beaches to send a message, "no to offshore oil drilling, yes to clean energy".

For decades, the state of Florida resisted the false promises of the benefits of oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, and wisely chose to protect the shoreline from the destructive effects of a spill on the coastal economy and environment. Last year a political movement in Tallahassee sought to open up Florida’s precious gulf waters to dangerous near-shore oil drilling.

Drawn to action, Dave Rauschkolb, owner of Bud & Alley's Restaurant in Seaside, Florida, led a fight against pending legislation and organized the group, and demonstration known as "Hands Across the Sand", to oppose near-shore drilling. Tens of thousands of folks drew a line in the sand along Florida beaches on February 13 to fight the expansion of oil exploration in the Gulf and show support for alternative energy solutions.

 Now a little more than two months after the horrific BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, Rauschkolb has taken the movement global. Through the efforts of countless volunteers and many established environmental groups, thousands of people around the world will come together on June 26 at noon to join hands to steer our country’s energy policy away from dependence on fossil fuels and into the light of clean energy and renewables.   

More than 700 events are scheduled in 50 states and 23 countries. Closer to home, dozens of SoWal beach walkovers are designated meeting spots with Seagrove to Grayton Beach serving as the primary locations. Supporters are asked to arrive at the beach at 11AM and join hands at noon for 15 minutes. For information about specific locations, go to www.handsacrossthesand.org.  

Some might ask what is the purpose of another Hands Across the Sand gathering. Why now?

The epic devastation caused by a single accident is now painfully obvious. The BP Deepwater Horizon explosion has wreaked environmental and economic havoc across hundreds, if not thousands, of miles. 

“We have an opportunity to make a powerful, positive impact on America and the world,” says Rauschkolb. “Our gathering on Saturday will be seen by many and it could be a critical turning point in changing our country's energy policy. Let us work together and share our passion and energies to protect our oceans, our beaches and our economy.” 

For those of us who live in or visit Walton County, we have seen firsthand the far-reaching effects of the BP catastrophe on the Gulf’s ecosystem. Yet at the same time, it is impossible to comprehend a situation that is beyond our grasp. Thoughts of what’s looming out there hang heavy.

The waiting and watching are nearly unbearable. One afternoon tar balls appear along a stretch of beach and then 12 hours later the same section of Gulf waters appear as clear as a mountain spring. On the afternoon of June 23 the Walton County Health Department issued a health advisory for a six-mile stretch of shoreline between Miramar and Topsail, yet the beach remained open. Unless you are able to get down to the Gulf and take a personal assessment of the situation, it’s difficult to know what to think or who to believe.   

We have also witnessed an unpredictable range of reactions and responses by our friends and neighbors. Our collective moods seem to ebb and flow as erratic as the massive spill. 

The situation is complex and ever-changing and cannot be captured in a single image, told in a thousand words, or replayed in a YouTube video. Some folks have an agenda. Others are in denial. 

Yet don’t all of us who live and work and play in South Walton have the same ultimate goal?  Everyone should be in agreement on one point. The gushing oil well must be permanently plugged. All the money in the world, much less BP’s escrow account, cannot restore our Gulf of Mexico to what it was before the April 20 disaster.

It doesn’t matter if you are a property manager hoping to book beds in July, or an environmental activist, you want your lifestyle restored. We want our economic livelihood secured. We want our beach back.

This Saturday is the time to stand united. Now more than ever we should come together and embrace a stronger-than-ever appreciation for what's really important -- our coastal environment, clear emerald waters, our sugar-white sandy beaches, and our way of life.

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Lynn Nesmith's picture

Lynn Nesmith

Lynn's career includes stints with Architecture Magazine and Southern Living. She's been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Better Homes & Gardens, Traditional Home, House Beautiful, Architectural Record and Coastal Living. Lynn lives in Seagrove and writes from a third-story tower with a glimpse of the Gulf of Mexico.

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