Tuesday, May 24, 2016

People Create Human Sun at Suncoast Sierra Hands Across the Sand event

Elected officials from throughout Pinellas County joined hundreds of Floridians, community leaders, and environmental organizations to oppose offshore oil drilling and call for a transition to 100% renewable energy at the 6th annual Hands Across the Sand event Saturday, May 21st on the sands of Treasure Island beach. 
23 people = 1 ray of sunshine
This year’s event featured a new format, with hundreds of people forming the shape of an original logo designed by internationally renowned aerial artist John Quigley. With a helicopter capturing the image, they created rays of a huge sun encircling “100%”, symbolizing the move towards clean energy and away from fossil fuels. The sun highlights the under-realized potential for solar energy in Florida.

Suncoast Sierra's Ready for 100% St Pete campaign aims to develop residential and commercial solar projects, establish a clear renewable energy goal in the City’s Climate Action Plan, and educate the public on the benefits and potential for renewable energy to power our vehicles, homes and offices.

Starting before 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Pinellas County has hosted some of the world’s largest gatherings to raise awareness about the dangers of dirty fossil fuels and offshore drilling and the need to transition to clean energy sources and vehicles that use electricity rather than oil.  On the heels of the recent Louisiana coast Shell Oil spill, this year's event also follows Congress’ consideration of a bill to lift the current moratorium on offshore drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast.
“100%” represents the Suncoast Sierra
Club's goal to drive the City of
St Petersburg to 100% renewable power.

“Drilling off Florida’s coast threatens the state’s multi-billion dollar, tourism-driven economy that’s dependent on clean beaches and pollution-free water,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). “That’s why I will continue to fight any attempt to lift the current moratorium on drilling in the Gulf and keep oil rigs off of Florida’s coasts.”
Pinellas County Commissioner
Ken Welch, who has proposed allocation
of BP settlement funds for electric buses

Numerous elected officials participating included Mayor Robert Minning of Treasure Island, Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, State Representative Kathleen Peters, Mayor Julie Bujalski of Dunedin, and representatives of Seminole, St. Pete Beach, Largo, Tarpon Springs and the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce. The Suncoast Sierra ClubSuncoast Surfrider FoundationEnvironment Florida, Oceana, Chart 411, Once Upon An Ocean, GreenpeaceSt. Petersburg Sustainability Council and Florida Food & Water Watch worked together to organize the event.

One of 19 in Florida and over 50 along the East Coast, Hands Across the Sand events increase awareness about the threat of offshore drilling exploration, specifically the practice of seismic airgun blasting, an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor. While, due to widespread coastal opposition, the Atlantic Ocean is today safe from the threat of offshore drilling, seismic airgun blasting still threatens whales and dolphins in an area twice the size of California, from Delaware to Florida. 112 coastal municipalities have publicly opposed seismic airgun blasting and/or offshore drilling, citing concerns to marine life, coastal communities and local economies. 
Being part of a human sunbeam is hard work!
Special thanks to Kathleen Finnerty for the aerial photos and Marcia Biggs for the shots on the ground. 
Hands Across the Sand 2016 from Eric Bunch on Vimeo.

Phil Compton, Senior Organizing Representative
1990 Central Avenue    St. Petersburg, FL 33712
717-824-8813, ext. 303          phil.compton@sierraclub.org