Just a few days shy of one year ago, along over 900 beaches and coastlines across the planet, people joined the first global Hands Across the Sand event — uniting with their neighbors to call for a ban on offshore oil drilling in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico BP disaster. It was a beautiful and glorious day, especially considering the mood of despair that enveloped that time.  This Saturday, people will be joining hands across the sand once more — but this time the day is much bigger in scope. People will be taking a stand against all the dirty energy sources that are burning our planet (the coal, the oil, the gas), and showing our unity for a future fully powered by renewable, clean energies (like the wind, the sun, and the waves). We hope it will be another moment to renew our movement, and feel the power and hope that comes from gathering in great numbers. Below is a personal call to action from Hands Across the Sander founder (and friend), Dave Rauschkolb.

sites/all/files/david_rauschkolb.jpgI moved to the Florida Gulf coast in 1972 and become passionate about this amazing place as soon as I set eyes on the pure white sand and clear, emerald green waters that graced our shoreline.  I've spent more than one lifetime fishing and surfing those waters.  I'm no exception, pretty much everyone I know is passionate about this beautiful place.  To finance my surfing trips and education I worked my way through college bar tending and waiting tables in restaurants.  In 1986 I opened the restaurant I still own and operate today as well as two others on the beach in Seaside, Florida.

I got the idea for Hands Across The Sand in response to the House of Representatives in the Florida Legislature passing a bill to lift the ban on near shore drilling in Florida's waters.  They passed the bill in April of 2009 in the last hours of session.  At that time the bill went largely unnoticed and was definitely under the radar to most Floridians.   

On October 1, 2010, I hosted a "meet and greet" for a dear friend named David Pleat. Dave was running for a House seat in the Florida legislature.  David gave a very passionate and informative speech about the recently passed bill that basically gave the oil industry a free pass to build a network of pipelines and rigs only 3 miles off our coastline; 3 miles is within sight of the beach.  David talked frankly about what the industrialization of our waters and coastline would mean and the disasters that would befall us if a rig had a major oil spill.  At the end of his speech he gave an inspiring call to action and asked that we write our legislators and send letters to our newspaper editors.  I had mentioned earlier in the event that I felt we needed to "draw a line in the sand" and stop this drilling initiative.  As I sat there listening to David's call to action I kept saying to myself, "there must be something else we can do".   In an instant I got the idea to have Floridian's draw that line in the sand and turned to my wife, Carol and said excitedly "I know what we can do!"  I made a short announcement to the crowd and my life took an unexpected path into activism.   The next week I created the website and designed it to be a self organizing  tool for anyone to organize an event.  I did this because my wife was about to give birth to our daughter at any day and I did not want to have the whole state calling and emailing me (that happened anyway).  The concept worked and 4 months later, on February 13 with the help of so many Floridians and organizations we had more than 10,000 people join hands against oil drilling in our waters.   From Jacksonville to Miami and from Key West to Pensacola we sent a simple, powerful message to the Florida Legislature.  


In the next months March Legislative session, the Senate did not pursue a companion bill and the House tabled the effort for the time being.  

Two months later, on April 20th, The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in our beloved Gulf of Mexico and our worst fears were realized.  I can't overstate the anger and emotion I felt, we all felt, when we became the direct victims of the very thing we tried to stop.  We were not the only victims as sick, dead and dying fish and dolphins continue to wash up on our shoreline by the thousands.  They are the canaries in the coal mine for us all.  I see this disaster as a microcosm of our global situation regarding the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.  I call them filthy fuels because fossil fuels is far to sexy a name for our greatest polluters of the air we breath, the water we drink and the food we consume.  Whether or not you believe in climate change, safe food, clean water & clean air are the essential fundamental elements of our survival as a species. The environmental damage associated with acquiring, refining and continuing to burn fossil fuels virtually guarantees the essential elements that support life on our planet will continue to be poisoned beyond repair.

Following the Deepwater Horizon disaster I felt compelled to organize this on a national and global level. At the time President Obama had spoken of opening the continental shelf of the entire United States to offshore drilling. In 4 short weeks after the website went live we had over 1000 events in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico take place. We had people joining hands in 43 countries outside the United States as well. The event held on June 26th was like a wave of human unity across the globe for clean energy. All joining hands to stop the expansion of offshore oil drilling. In each time zone people of all walks of life joined hands beginning in New Zealand and finishing on Hanalei bay on Kaui, Hawaii. 350.org, Onesky, Surfrider Foundation, Sierra Club, Audubon, Greenpeace, Environment America and many, many other organisations helped in broadening the reach of the event.

For me, this goes far beyond offshore oil drilling.  We must change our world energy policy or we will not have a sustainable planet with clean air, water and food to live in.  The problem is those industries are powerful, massive and entrenched in our economies and politics and so much of what is involved in our daily lives.  The coal, oil and natural gas industries are working very hard to maintain the status quo.  They spend millions on advertising to numb our minds into thinking they are responsibly and cleanly supplying us with all of our energy needs.  They want to keep us dependent on their products, the very products that are destroying our planet.  They depend on us and they love the fact that we are dependent on them.  But they are loving us to death.  Respiratory illnesses and Cancer are at an all time high.  A simple hair sample will show the level of Mercury in your system largely, thanks to coal fired power plants raining heavy metals down on our seafood.  In the last century we had no viable alternatives.  This century is different.  We now have the technologies that are rapidly becoming cheap enough to compete.  Change is coming.  We have to join hands to make that change come now and end our pre-historic energy policies. 

Growing and nurturing a clean energy policy on a global scale is the path to fresh job growth, a sustainable global economic future and a more stable geo-political future.   Our dependence on fossil fuels in the long term is unsustainable and the global conflicts created acquiring these fuels will continue to have a devastating, destabilizing effect on world politics.  

Joining hands is so important on so many levels.  It's not just going to the beach and holding hands for 15 minutes.  This is a powerful, empowering, symbolic act of immense importance.  An act that moves beyond the divisions of politics, the divisions of borders, the divisions of religion and so on.   Hands Across The Sand is about engaging a shift in the way we think about where and how we obtain our energy sources.  It's about demanding from our leaders a very logical, common sense, clean energy approach.  I believe energy should be obtained and utilized geographically.  Wherever the Sun is abundant those areas should be using it as an energy source to the fullest.  Wherever Geo Thermal is abundant those areas should be utilized fully.  Wherever the wind blows with power and consistency and the waves and currents of the ocean can generate energy those sources should be embraced.  This will not happen overnight but we must work towards the day when we make oil, coal and gas the alternative energy sources.  

The bottom line is this.  We cannot afford to allow the major dirty fuel industries to continue to control our energy policies through political influence.  We must join hands on so many levels beyond what will happen this Saturday on the beaches, in the parks, cities and seats of power around the world.  We must join hands and demand by whatever peaceful means our leaders steer a clear path of logic towards clean energy.  

Our lives are too short to comprehend our complicity in the slow death we are inflicting on the earth. We must connect with generations past, generations present and generations future and weave a thread of balance and wisdom for our planet. Forget borders, forget the elements that separate us. We have done our damage, we now have the power to undo and together, join hands and build a clean energy path that sustains us all.  There is no more important issue we must focus on as humans.