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Oil Disaster Pushes Florida Event International

June 23, 2010

PENSACOLA, Fla. - "Hands Across the Sand" began in Florida as a warning about the dangers of offshore oil drilling even before the Gulf of Mexico disaster, and this Saturday, post-disaster, it goes international. The mission of the event is to steer energy policy away from dependence on fossil fuels and toward cleaner forms of energy.

In February, people joined hands for the first time across Florida beaches, but the Gulf oil spill has pushed the significance of their gesture far beyond the state, according to event founder, Florida restaurant owner Dave Rauschkolb.

"Americans are going to be joining hands. It doesn't matter whether they are Democrats, Republicans, conservatives or liberals. Americans feel very strongly and deeply about their coastal heritage."

Rauschkolb says he organized the first statewide gathering to send a message to Florida lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Crist that Floridians didn't want them to lift the bans on offshore oil drilling in the Florida waters or near its coastline. Shortly after the event, the Florida Legislature tabled those efforts.

Shannon Miller, with the Florida Defenders of Wildlife chapter, says the current Gulf oil disaster is exactly what the group had feared - and warned of - in February.

"This was our worst nightmare. This is exactly what we were trying to tell people was going to happen. In fact, it's what we were trying to get our governments to prevent."

"Hands" events have now been organized in all 50 states and at least 20 countries across the globe. Each event takes place on Saturday, June 26, at noon in their local time zones. Miller says the oil spewing into the Gulf has created a new sense of urgency for these gatherings.

"And unfortunately, it had to be this spill that created such a buzz about it, but I think people now are really concerned."

She is convinced that it will take years before the ecological and environmental impacts of the disaster are fully understood. Information about the events is online at Get more headlines like this via email