(Note: In May of 2010, not long after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, I met and interviewed the founder of Hands Across The Sand, Dave Rauschkolb, in Seaside, FL. I wrote about Rauschkolb and the story behind what inspired his organization on my original blog site. This weekend begins Hands Across The Sand's fourth year holding what are now global events in protest of offshore oil drilling, (Locate a local event near you here.) and in honor of that I'm re-posting my original piece on Rauschkolb below.)
(Photo: Martha Jackovics)
May 21, 2010
It’s been over a month since the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11, injured many others and caused the still gushing oil “spill” that threatens to devastate wildlife, along with the fishing and tourism industry in Florida.
Aside from a lot of political posturing in the past over the issue of oil drilling in the Gulf Of Mexico, not much was done about it beyond talk.
What did it take to get people’s attention? Probably the fact that most recent evidence places the oil plumes in the “loop current” in the Gulf, which will eventually carry the oil into the Florida Keys and then on around South Florida, into the Atlantic where most say it will likely land on beaches in Palm Beach County first.
Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to head up to the Florida Panhandle where I met people who live and work where, at the time, most thought the oil was headed next. I talked to people whose entire livelihoods were, and still are at stake.
One of those people I met was a man who didn’t just talk about it. He actually did something about it, and he did it long before the BP disaster unfolded.
Last summer, the Florida House passed bill #1219 which lifted the ban on near shore oil drilling in the Gulf Of Mexico, which allowed drilling to take place as close as ten miles off the coast of Florida. The bill first came to the attention of restaurant owner Dave Rauschkolb in Seaside, FL during a meet and greet at his restaurant with Florida House candidate David Pleat. Rauschkolb said that Pleat explained in layman’s terms what actually was proposed in the bill.
“What they were really asking for was carte blanche to give them a free ticket to drill anywhere they wanted three to ten miles off shore and that would also give the county jurisdiction from the waterline to three miles. The county said they could run pipelines wherever they wanted” Rauschkolb explains. “I was knocked back on my heels.”
At the end of Pleat’s explanation Rauschkolb “got this flash of an idea” that went beyond merely writing to legislators in opposition.
“Earlier I had said “we need to draw a line in the sand over this” and that kept running through my head. I looked at my wife and I said “I know what we can do.” I got this simple idea to have Floridians go to the beaches, join hands and create human lines in the sand to protest this legislation and try to convince legislators to drop this proposal.”
Rauschkolb’s ”flash of an idea” became a now familiar environmental awareness movement in Florida called “Hands Across The Sand.”
Hands Across the Sand is a movement made of people of all walks of life and crosses political affiliations. This movement is not about politics; it is about protection of our shoreline, our waterways, our tourism, our coastal military missions and our valuable properties. Let us share our knowledge, energies and passion for protecting all of the above from the devastating effects of oil drilling.
The idea was simple: Go to an event beach at the appointed time for one hour, rain or shine, join hands for ten minutes forming a “line in the sand” against oil drilling in coastal waters, and leave only footprints behind.
Rauschkolb went to work on the idea and designed a website, a 30 second radio commercial and a newspaper ad. The website was subsequently contributed by CYber SYtes in Panama City Beach, and posters were designed by local artists as well as T-Shirts that were given away free of charge.
Before long e-mails started to come in, and in just two months Rauschkolb says “we had 80 beaches organized from Jacksonville Beach to Miami and from Key West up to Pensacola.” Thousands of Floridians joined hands at he first “Hands Across The Sand” event that took place on February 13, 2010. “The largest group was in the Tampa, St. Petersburg Beach area with around 3,000 people. In Seaside, where Rauschkolb owns and operates his restaurant“Bud & Alley’s” there were 500.
Talking to Rauschkolb just over two weeks after the BP oil spill, he speaks about his frustration over President Obama’s stand on oil drilling. “ I knew the moment (Obama) said the word “Oil” in his State Of the Union address that he was throwing a bone to the Republicans. I counted how many times he said “clean energy,” 12 or 15 times. He mentioned oil once.” A strong signal in Rauschkolb’s mind that “this is something that is not near and dear to his heart.”
“To me after this spill, it’s going to be awfully difficult for those pro-drilling politicians in Florida to wash oil from their hands and I can’t imagine that (Florida Republicans) Dean Cannon and Mike Haridopolos will continue this folly and bring this legislation back to Floridians in the next session after the election. So I’m imploring them to stop it and stop it now. I’m hoping in the near future they will come out and say they’re dropping the legislation for good.”
“So many politicians like Sarah Palin and John Boehner are just drilling themselves a hole into oblivion in my opinion and I hope they stay down there. They can live with the oil as far as I’m concerned. I’ve lived here since 1970 and it’s one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever been. I’ve made my life here, I’ve raised my family here and this is a very special place. It’s the natural beauty of this place and the fact that 30% of our seafood comes from the Gulf.”
Rauschkolb becomes emotional at the thought of what could become of the community where he’s made his home for 24 years.
“Florida beaches are America’s beaches and they should hold them dear. I’m sorry, but drilling should not be occurring in the Gulf of Mexico, period. The Gulf should be a national park. It’s an abomination that our seafood industry is going to be destroyed for a very long time, and that entire coastal economies and ecosystems are about to be devastated. No one industry should have that kind power because of their mistakes.”
“Perhaps destiny will determine through this accident which way our country goes.”