Hands Across The Sand for a Clean Energy Future

On May 17, 2014, people on beaches in the U.S. and around the world literally joined Hands Across The Sand to say no to fossil fuels and yes to clean energy.

Founded in 2010, Hands Across The Sand’s mission is to bring awareness to the public about the dangers of fossil fuels while promoting clean energy. It is an aptly named annual event. People gather at their local beach, form a line on the sand, and join hands, take a group photo, and hope to make the local news.

Hands Across The Sand, Adelaide, South Australia, May 17, 2014 - Photo: Tammy-Jo Sutton
Hands Across The Sand, Adelaide, South Australia, May 17, 2014 – Photo: Tammy-Jo Sutton

Let’s look at how Hands Across The Sand got its start.

Hands Across The Sand

Like many activists, Hands Across The Sand founder Dave Rauschkolb did not set out to be one.

Rauschkolb is a dad, surfer, and restaurateur who donned the activist hat in 2010 to protest pending Florida legislation that would have allowed offshore oil drilling within 3 to 10 miles of the coast. He established Hands Across The Sand and organized the first event held on February 13, 2010. Over 10,000 Floridians turned out on beaches all over the state, formed lines on the sand, and joined hands to protest offshore drilling. The legislation was tabled the next month.

Two months later, on April 20, 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, bringing the dangers of offshore oil drilling to Florida as tar balls and oil washed up on its beaches threatening the lives and livelihoods of people not only in Florida but all around the Gulf. Hands Across The Sand responded on June 25, 2010, with over 1,000 events held in every state in the U.S. and 43 other countries.

Hands Across The Sand is now in its fifth year and has added a Hands Across The Land component so landlocked enthusiasts can participate too.

Hands Across the Sand and Land Event on Bridge Over River, May 17, 2014 - Photo: Giselle Kim
Hands Across the Sand and Land Event on Bridge Over River, May 17, 2014 – Photo: Giselle Kim

Hands Across The Sand – Avila Beach, CA

A few weeks ago, an announcement from the local Sierra Club chapter caught my interest. It said there would be an event called Hands Across The Sand on Saturday, May 17, 2014, to advocate for clean energy and protest the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline.

The local event in the tiny town of Avila Beach on the Central California Coast was being sponsored by the Surfrider Foundation San Luis Obispo chapter and the Sierra Club Santa Lucia chapter. San Luis Obispo County is perhaps the most laidback county in the state so I anticipated a small-scale, peaceful gathering of a few surfers and treehuggers with zero chance of violence or arrests.

Hands Across The Sand seemed like the perfect way to wrap up several weeks of researching and writing about the Keystone XL Pipeline and participate in my first environmental protest. My spouse agreed to go, as did a friend from LA who would be visiting us that weekend.

Hands Across The Sand Banner

On Saturday morning, we got up, ate breakfast, and then realized we’d have to leave the breakfast dishes on the kitchen counter if we were to make it to Avila Beach by the 11:00 a.m. start time. On the way, we contemplated the irony of driving our fossil fuel-powered car to a protest against fossil fuels.

We arrived a few minutes past 11:00 and found the organizers down by the pier setting up on a couple of folding tables. Brad from the Surfrider Foundation enlisted our help to sort, fold, and stack a pile of free t-shirts for participants.

More people showed up. A reporter from a local news station with a small camera and microphone interviewed the organizers. At around 11:30, we sat on some concrete steps by the pier while Heidi and Andrew from the Sierra Club talked about local environmental issues.

At about noon, our group of 50 people or so were ushered down to the water line and asked to form a line facing away from the water (so our faces would be in the photo instead of our backs). Andrew stretched out a piece of black air conditioning conduit to represent the Keystone XL Pipeline. A few people from the beach wandered up, asked what we were doing, and walked down to the end of the line. We all joined hands and had our picture taken.

Hands Across The Sand, Avila Beach, CA, May 17, 2014 - Photo: Surfrider Foundation San Luis Obispo Chapter
Hands Across The Sand, Avila Beach, CA, May 17, 2014 – Photo: Surfrider Foundation San Luis Obispo Chapter

At that moment I felt connected to not only the people in our local group but to all the other people holding hands in large and small groups across the country and around the world. It was a powerful feeling!

We forgot to watch the local TV news that night to see if our Hands Across The Sand event made the news. I found our group photos on Facebook via Twitter @SurfriderSLO.

We’ll be back for next year’s Hands Across The Sand event.

Take a few minutes to check out the Hands Across The Sand website, make a donation, sign up for email updates, like them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter @HandsAcrossSand.

See you next year!

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information, spark conversation, and convince people to take action to keep earth habitable for all. She believes our individual actions do matter—it all adds up.

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