Hands Across the Sand, with David Rauschkolb and Dede Shelton

This month, our Community editor Uttama Anderson asked Hands Across the Sand founder Dave Rauschkolb, and his sister, volunteer CEO Dede Shelton, to talk about a simple act of protest that has captured the world’s heart. Hands Across the Sand started in 2010 with 10,000 Floridians protesting against offshore oil drilling. In response to the tragic oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, a new wave of protest grew. It became the largest gathering of people in the world united against expanding offshore oil drilling, and championing clean energy and renewables.

Parvati Magazine: An incredible wave of people across the globe felt they had to do something in 2010. What was the defining moment that sparked people to go from watching the news in dismay to taking action?

Dave Rauschkolb: Following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Hands Across the Sand provided an outlet for solidarity with all affected. The constant flow of oil for three desperate months created a sense of helplessness across the world and the sense we must do something. The metaphor of people joining hands across the earth was powerful. I designed the event so any individual in any country could use the tools to organize an event on a beach, in a park or on their front lawn to empower them to join hands – and they did.

PMAG: How did you come up with the idea, and organize 10,000 people? And then – the world?

DR: In 2009 the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill allowing oil drilling in Florida’s waters. Being a surfer, fisherman and owner of a Gulf front restaurant, I felt drilling would be the beginning of the slow, deliberate deterioration of our beloved Gulf of Mexico. I thought there must be something more we could do… a line in the sand. In that instant I saw that line in the sand could be people, joining hands. I challenged the people of Florida to join hands against offshore drilling in Florida’s waters. Two months later, just five weeks after the Florida protest, the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded off Louisiana. In response I retooled the website, added the world map, and on June 25th events were held in all 50 states and in 48 countries. Like a wave of clean, pure, positive energy, people joined hands from New Zealand to Hanalei Bay, Hawaii.

PMAG: There is still so much oil company pressure around seismic testing and offshore drilling. How have you kept the momentum going these past seven years?

Dede Shelton: Joining hands together in a silent gathering of like-minded people creates a powerful image and that creates excited participants. All who see the lines of people know we do not want oil rigs or seismic air gun blasting in our oceans or hydraulic fracturing on our lands. Our sponsors advocate for clean energy daily and provide us with information for our Facebook page. We join in, creating calls to action around the globe. By educating the public and maintaining constant advocacy for our planet, we create the momentum needed to join Hands year after year.

With this continuous education, momentum is increasing. In 2016 we had 88 events around the world; in 2017 we had 112. Hands has become a catalyst for action and creates a powerful opportunity for people to do something about advocating for our planet.

PMAG: What hopeful message would you like to share with our readers?

DS: People care about saving the planet. Every year, thousands of people around the globe show up to create a powerful image of solidarity. They put their differences aside and join with their fellow human beings in making a difference in the health of our planet. They are ALL ocean and planet heroes.

DR: There is no turning back, as evidenced by the advancement of clean energy in the past ten years. People like Elon Musk are paving the way to advance the technology and infrastructures to end dirty fuels’ grip. Entire countries in Europe are transitioning to a cleaner path. Clearly the dirty fuel industry’s days are numbered as the future of our planet and our very existence depends on [this transition]. Not a moment too soon.

David Rauschkolb & Dede Shelton

David Rauschkolb sparked a great idea, and now his sister Dede Shelton continues the momentum. Hands Across the Sand is an international day of action every May on which activists and beachgoers alike send a message to the world that dirty offshore drilling must be replaced with clean, renewable energy sources. Participants join hands to “draw a line in the sand” and create a powerful visual statement against expanding offshore drilling. To learn more, please visit www.handsacrossthesand.org.