Clean energy supporters have a chance to speak out against fossil fuels Saturday during this year’s Hands Across the Sand.
Hands Across the Sand is part of a national movement founded in 2009 by Floridian Dave Rauschkolb. Every year on the third Saturday of May, those who want to draw what organizers call “metaphorical and actual lines in the sand” line up to join hands in silence for 15 minutes.
Dozens of synchronized events planned by local organizers are to take place Saturday in the country, including four in North Carolina. Events are planned in Wrightsville Beach, Emerald Isle, Surf City and Oak Island.
Although organizers held virtual events the last few years because of COVID-19, supporters will be back in person this year.
Surfrider Foundation Cape Fear Chapter and Save Our Sea NC are teaming up to host the Hands Across the Sand event Saturday in Wrightsville Beach.
Participants can meet at 8:30 a.m. on the sand at the Stone Street beach access to stand together along the shoreline for 15 minutes. There will be a group photo taken followed by a beach cleanup. Parking is free at Wrightsville Beach Baptist Church, 601 Causeway Drive, from 8-11 a.m. Marked spaces are not to be used.
Amanda Jacobs, executive board member with Surfrider Foundation Cape Fear Chapter, told Coastal Review Friday that the organization had been involved in Hands Across the Sand since the first event in 2010 and continues to be because it brings “about awareness around the world to the dangers of fossil fuels to our rivers, oceans and waterways.”
She said she hopes those attending will learn that “our environment, especially where we live on the coast is fragile and our decisions not only impact us but our environment. There are clean energy resources available to us and they are worth seeking out.”
Jacobs explained that during COVID, events were limited to very small groups, and they haven’t been able to host this event for a few years. “We look forward to hosting again this year,” she added.
During the event, there will be a short talk about Hands Across the Sand and the two wind farm leases off the North Carolina-South Carolina coast auctioned Wednesday, as well as a group photo and a beach sweep. She recommended participants bring “sunscreen and a smile.”
“This event was particularly important during the Trump administration as they were pushing toward more drilling of our particular coast. In the last two days, the first two wind farm leases have been granted in North Carolina, which is something the Surfrider Foundation is open to exploring,” Jacobs added.
The provisional winners for the two leases in the Carolina Long Bay wind energy area were TotalEnergies Renewables USA, LLC, which bid $160 million and Duke Energy Renewables Wind, LLC, with a $155 million bid, the Department of the Interior announced Wednesday.
The Emerald Isle Hands Across the Sand is to promote a clean energy future across the world, show support for improved water quality, reduce plastic pollution on North Carolina’s beaches and “support clean energy to leave our beach cleaner than when we arrived so that we may enjoy them for generations to come,” organizers said.
To be held at the Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier, registration begins at 11:15 a.m. At 11:45 p.m., there will be a brief talk about the event and everyone will begin to line up. At noon, everyone will join hands if comfortable or stand 6 feet apart in the line for 15 minutes. The event will wrap up with a beach sweep until 1 p.m.
To bring awareness to the harm pollution causes, representatives will be at the event from Business Alliance Protecting the Atlantic Coast, Carteret Big Sweep, Citizens Protecting the Atlantic Coast, Coastal Carolina Riverwatch, Unitarian Coastal Fellowship, Croatan Group Sierra Club, Emerald Isle Parrotheads, Emerald Isle Realty, EI Turtle Patrol, Interfaith Power and Light, Island Essentials, North Carolina Coastal Federation, Oceana, South Swell Surf Shop and Surf Rider Foundation.
Sabrina Hylton, director of guest services for Emerald Isle Realty, has been organizing Hands Across The Sand in the Bogue Banks town since 2018.
“I started this at the Bogue Inlet Pier as a personal initiative to get those already on the sand enjoying our beautiful beaches to be aware of their impact,” she said Friday in an interview. “I was not prepared for it to catch on like it has. That first year we had approximately 50 participants down on the sand, in 2019 we had nearly 225.”
After being encouraged by Julia Batten Wax, owner of Emerald Isle Realty, Hylton said she began making connections with others in the area and organizations who have helped promote the mission. She added that Joel Dunn, with the Sierra Club North Carolina Croatan group and Coastal Carolina Riverwatch, has been a tremendous help in organizing supporters and making the flyer.
She noted that the Hands Across the Sand organization decided to host the event virtually the last couple of years due to COVID. For those who want to attend this year, Hylton said any precautions one wants to take for them to feel comfortable are welcome.
“So many families save all year to spend just one week in our little slice of paradise. We hope that everyone will better understand the importance of keeping our beautiful coastline pristine and will support practices and policies that help protect the coast from things you can see, such as litter, and things that aren’t immediately visible, like climate change,” Hylton said. “Everything we do from trash to noise, to air and water pollution to simply digging holes in the sand impacts our waterways, coastal ecology, as well as the quality and shape of our beaches. ‘Leave only your footprints’ is a great rule of thumb.”
Hylton added that Mike Stanly, owner of the Bogue Inlet Pier, is refunding the parking fees for everyone participating in Hands Across The Sand. “You will be given a ticket when you pay, and directed where to park. Just turn that ticket back in by 1 p.m. to receive your parking fee back.”
Participants who want to join in Hands Across the Sand in Surf City are to meet at 102 N. Shore Drive, next to the Surf City Welcome Center, at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
“Form lines with us on May 21, 2022 for Surf City beaches, river banks, capitol steps and fields to say NO to fossil fuels and YES to clean energy,” the Facebook event states. Chris Medlin is listed as the contact and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Medlin told Coastal Review Friday that this is his fourth year organizing, though there was no event last year because of COVID.
Those new to the event can expect to see a group of people coming together “to show that we are in favor of clean renewable energy.”
He hopes residents understand that “we have the ability and means to stop drilling and seismic testing off our coast and that renewables are the future.”
On Oak Island, Hands Across the Sand participants should meet at 11:30 a.m. at 4601 E. Beach Drive. Pete Key is listed as the contact and can be reached by email at email@example.com.
Floridian Dave Rauschkolb said in a statement that he founded Hands Across The Sand in October 2009 in response to a bill passed in the Florida House of Representatives that would lift a ban on near shore drilling.
“With the support of sponsor organizations, we rallied more than 10,000 Floridians to join hands on Feb. 13, 2010, to show a united opposition to near shore drilling. The event covered the state’s coastlines, from the Atlantic to the Gulf. As a result of these efforts, the bill was tabled the next month,” he said. “Two months later the BP Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. We then organized a global Hands Across The Sand to urge President Barack Obama to abandon his bid to open the continental United States waters to offshore oil drilling.”
Since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in 2010, Hands Across the Sand has incorporated land issues including hydraulic fracturing, mountaintop clearing and coal.
Hands Across the Sand is “particularly salient this year with the recent oil spill off the California Coast and President Biden’s plan to open offshore leasing that will expand offshore drilling to almost every square inch of the American coastline and assault on public lands,” according to the 2022 press release.