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Second ‘Hands Across The Sand’ sends an environmental message

By Staff | Jun 29, 2011

Approximately two dozen participants held hands on Lighthouse Beach on Saturday, raising awareness of opposition to offshore oil drilling and supporting alternative energies.

They came. They spoke. They held hands. And they sent a message.

But even if Saturday’s second annual “Hands Across The Sand” event didn’t gather as many participants as last year, it did not deter organizer Deborah Belford from spreading the word about opposing offshore oil drilling and supporting work on finding alternative energy sources.

“I think that people too easily forget what we were once facing,” said Belford, referencing last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which threatened to pollute the Gulf coast shoreline from Texas to Florida. “We need to call awareness to this issue and dedicate ourselves to keeping our waters clean. The last thing I want to see are oil rigs off the shores of Sanibel.”

On June 25, approximately two dozen demonstrators gathered just before noon on Lighthouse Beach, linking hands for 15 minutes in a show of resolve.

Dave Kirwan, a resident of Cape Coral, said that he attended Saturday’s event — for the second consecutive year — because his children are very involved in water activities.

Two-year-old Addison Roof of Sanibel was Saturday's youngest participant.

“Last year we had a huge turnout because the oil spill had just happened, but I’m afraid most people have simply forgotten about it,” said Kirwan, who noted that Lighthouse Beach was his favorite beach in Southwest Florida. “I think the government has to start funding work on alternative resources for our energy needs, because what we’re using right now isn’t sustainable. We need to do better.”

Belford passed out postcards, addressed to President Barack Obama, stressing the urgency in reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil by 33 percent.

“You can deliver on your pledge to the American people by setting new standards requiring cars and light trucks to achieve a standard of at least 60 miles per gallon and emit no more than 143 grams of global warming pollution per mile by 2025,” the postcard read. “Using American ingenuity, we can build cars and trucks that will reduce our dependence on oil by 2.5 million barrels each day by 2030 — that’s almost 50 percent more oil than we currently import from the entire Persian Gulf.”

St. Petersburg, Fla. resident Pam Zibell said that she was attending “Hands Across The Sand” on Sanibel because of what the island represents.

“I don’t know how many people here today realize what a gift this place is,” she said, looking out across the densely populated beach. “We have to protect and preserve it because of its uniqueness. A place like this cannot be duplicated by man.”

Deborah Belford, right, draws a line in the sand, symbolic of why she urged participants to speak out against offshore oil drilling.

Similar events were staged at beaches along several Gulf states, and locally in Fort Myers Beach, Cape Coral, Fort Myers and Naples.

“We need to do better, as the keepers of Mother Earth,” added Belford, who first moved to Sanibel in 1985. “We have the resources to fill our energy needs, but it’s a matter of getting enough people to say what we want our government to do. That’s why it’s so important to speak up and send that message.”

The Gilbert family — Harris, Linda and Kyle — represented three generations.