International protest showcases momentum of anti-oil movement

DENVER– Saturday, tens of thousands of people held hands in hundreds of places around the world. They did it mostly on beaches. In towns without oceans, people gathered at lakes and creeks. Here in the mile high city, a hundred or so people met at Rocky Mountain Lake, near 46th and Lowell. People met in eight other Colorado communities as well, all of them gathering as part of an international protest against off-shore oil drilling.

The movement began in Florida in February, months before the BP Gulf catastrophe, when more than 10,000 people gathered on beaches there “to draw a line in the sand” as a symbolic gesture.

“We hope Congress and the President are listening this time,” said the founder of Hands Across the Sand, Dave Rauschkolb, a Florida Gulf Coast restaurateur.

“We need to steer them away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy. The oil and energy businesses have way too much influence in this country. Our government and the oil industry are inextricably linked by money,” he said Saturday.

Rauschkolb said there were 924 Hands Across the Sand events taking place Saturday in 39 countries. The U.S. hosted 814 events in all 50 states. He said the largest was in St. Petersburg, Florida, where more than 5,500 people gathered on the beach.

Rauschkolb said the oil spill is having a devastating effect on the seafood industry. He said the Gulf Coast normally supplies about 20 percent of U.S. seafood but that the very existence of the seafood business is now at risk in five states.

“That doesn’t even take into account the effect this is having on the environment as a whole or on the economy as a whole. People on the Gulf Coast are losing their homes, losing their way of life.”

The Denver event was co-sponsored by the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, and Environment Colorado.

Local organizer Roger Singer said, “We want to send a clear message that we need to switch from drilling in places we shouldn’t drill to developing solar and wind.”

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff addressed the crowd at Rocky Mountain Lake. He said the Gulf Coast spill needs to serve as America’s Sputnik on energy, comparing the event to when the Russians beat America to space, which inspired then-President Kennedy to outline an ambitious space agenda.

“We need a new Apollo Program on energy,” Romanoff declared. He said America “needs to harness our best efforts” to move from an oil-based energy system to one based on renewables. He said the United States needs to commit to getting half of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. “We can get there if we divorce ourselves from special interest groups.”

He said that as heartbreaking as the oil slick is, the real oil slick is caused by the money the oil industry spends to influence Congress.

“They spend money on both sides of many races. You know they wouldn’t do it if they didn’t get something from it,” he declared.

He said campaign finance reform is the only way to “free Congress from the grip of oil money.”

[Photo via Flickr]

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Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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