On August 4, GRN joined people all around the world who stood along beaches, lakes, and parks to say no to expanded oil drilling and yes to clean water and safe energy. Hands Across the Sand is an international movement about protecting our coastal economies, oceans, marine wildlife and fisheries.The accidents that continue to happen in offshore oil drilling are a threat to all of the above. The idea behind the worldwide event is to show that we are unified in the defense of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we consume from dangerous, dirty energy sources.With a billing like that and all that the Gulf continues to face in the aftermath of the BP oil drilling disaster, GRN was happy to be a part of this year’s Hands Across the Sand.In St. Petersburg, FL, thing kicked off with a press conference that brought together environmentalists, business leaders, and policymakers at the Guy Harvey Outpost on St. Pete beach and then over 350 people joined hands on the beach. There were some great speakers and comments: Cathy Harrelson, Florida Organizer for Gulf Restoration Network opened with a thank you to all those who make Hands a success year after year, and described the ongoing effects of the 2012 Gulf oil disaster, the importance of the RESTORE Act to local communities and the vitality of a healthy Gulf. Keith Overton, President & COO of Tradewinds Island Resorts and past chair of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, shared his conviction that protecting the environment is good for Florida business; Bob Lasher, Manager of Community Relations for Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority represented the transportation choice of bus and rail transit to shift our addiction to oil;Florida State Representative Jim Frishe, gave his firm support to keeping oil drilling off Florida’s coasts; andPatty Hubbard, CFO of Johns Pass Village & VP of Hubbard Fisheries very poignantly described the devastating effects of the Gulf oil disaster that continue to impact her family’s business; andFrank Jackalone, Regional Director of the Sierra Club exhorted leaders with their “heads in the sand to begin to create the future we have dreamed of – civilization powered by clean energy. It is technologically feasible, it is being built, and it is affordable. All we need do is embrace it.” At noon, over 350 people – families, cyclists, tourists, faith organizations, business owners, environmental activists and elected officials of all stripes joined Hands for 15 minutes. We raised arms and cheered as television cameras, beach photographers, parasail-cam and the amazing Jet-Lev helmet video cam swooped by, enjoying the amazing blue sky, blue water and white sand we are blessed with on Florida’s Gulf coast. The temperature was moderate, the humidity was tolerable, and the mood was hopeful as the power and electricity of so many kindred spirits focused on our beautiful Gulf of Mexico, joining hands to move beyond oil to a cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous future.—–In New Orleans, LA, several dozen people gathered along the banks of Bayou St. John to stand in solidarity with those participating in other events throughout the Gulf and throughout the world. At the New Orleans event, GRN’s Jonathan Henderson spoke to the participants about the need for a Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council for the Gulf and about ongoing impacts that continue to show up on Louisiana’s beaches and marsh from BP’s oil drilling disaster. After holding hands in solidarity for a few minutes, the participants paraded New Orleans style to the nearby Bayou Beer Garden to cool off and mingle. Many sponsoring groups, which included Global Green, Gulf Future Coalition, Gulf Restoration Network, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Sierra Club, and Vietnamese-American Young Leadership Association, were on hand with table displays and information about what each group is doing to help promote a healthy Gulf coast and communities. —–In Biloxi, MS, dozens of concerned citizens gathered on the (very hot) beach to join hands against oil and gas activities in Mississippi’s waters. For decades, Mississippi’s waters, including the areas around Gulf Islands Seashore national park, have remained mostly free from oil and gas development. However, there is currently an effort to open up these areas to seismic testing, drilling and production. Residents were proud to take this opportunity to draw a line in the sand against irresponsible offshore drilling and for a healthy coastal environment and tourism economy.GRN’s Raleigh Hoke was quoted in the media coverage of the event, and we have some lovely photos from Ceci Whitehurst, wife of GRN’s Science and Water Policy Associate Director, Andrew Whitehurst. Notice some of the cool “We stand with the Gulf” signs that were made by students throughout the southeast to mark the last BP oil disaster memorial. Thanks to everyone who came out to events around the Gulf, nation and world. Together, we can have a clean and healthy future here in the Gulf of Mexico and everywhere on the planet.Dan Favre, GRN’s Communication Director, put created this piece with submissions from Cathy Harrelson, Florida Organizer; Jonathan Henderson, Coastal Resiliency Organizer; and Raleigh Hoke, Mississippi Organizer.