LONG BRANCH – Citizens rallied in opposition to offshore drilling at various beach locations by clasping hands and forming a line across the beach.
The rally, called “Hands Across The Sand,” involved hundreds of synchronized events globally to oppose offshore drilling, raise awareness about the dangers of dirty fuels and the need to speed the transition to available, affordable clean energy solutions.
President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order on April 28 to the Department of the Interior to consider re-opening the process to allow oil and gas development in the Atlantic Ocean, among other ocean realms. It also directed the department to reconsider six ocean blasting permits. Both of these actions were rejected late in the Obama Administration after a nearly five year grassroots effort. Opponents of the move fear oil and gas exploration and development could become a reality.
A rally organized by Clean Ocean Action was held at Laird Street between Village and Ocean Place in Long Branch. Cindy Zipf, the head of Clean Ocean Action, said the event had a great turn out, despite the rainy weather.
“Mayor Brian Wilton from Lake Como and Long Branch Councilman John Pallone were among the many that joined hands,” out front of Jared Kushner’s Pier Village, she said. “As Mayor Wilton reminded everyone, anyone can come to the beach on a sunny day, or post on social media, but turning out on a cold and rainy day and taking a stand in the sand is the way to get things done.”
“The cold rainy weather did not dampen the spirit of ocean defenders,” she said. “Many folks braved the weather and stood arm in arm, and with fists in the air to defiantly take a stand in the sand against offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.”
The Long Branch location was selected because Pier Village is owned by Jared Kurshner’s company. Jared is a President Trump’s son in law, and a key advisor. His family also has oceanfront property.
“We wanted to send a message that a clean ocean is essential to all life as well as the economy,”Zipf said.
Zipf added that “drilling anywhere in the Atlantic threatens the Jersey Shore. Pollution or spills will ride the Gulf Stream north toward our coast. Make no mistake, an oil soaked beach means death to marine life, all the joys of the sea, tourism, and property values. Also, a clean ocean economy not only provides more jobs than a dirty, industrial oil-based economy, but it also sustains marine life and supports a healthy quality of life for all. We choose a clean ocean economy.”
A rally planned in Ocean County was impacted by the weather. The event was to take place in Riverfront Park in Point Pleasant did not take place due to weather conditions.
“It was to have taken place at noon but an event that proceeded it, the Pirate Paddle had a delayed start due to weather and water conditions (small craft advisory),” said Marsha Worthington, the coordinator of that event. “Due to the conditions of the day – paddlers loaded and left the site as they finished. I had hoped to paddle in with a crowd of paddlers standing on the beach, but sadly the beach was empty at 12:30 pm. Perhaps next year will be a little less chaos and better conditions.”
Eighty-six events took place in 18 states and three countries on May 20. Hands Across the Sand/Land events included grassroots advocates who sought to “educate and advocate for our planet,” according to their website. “It is a critical time for our oceans and environment, it is time we end climate change for good.”
Sponsoring organizations also included the Sierra Club, Oceana, Surfrider Foundation, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Friends of the Earth, Gulf Restoration Network, Chart 411 and Urban Paradise Guild.
Hands Across the Sand/Land was founded in 2010 and grew into an international movement after the BP oil disaster in April of that year. People came together to join hands, forming symbolic barriers against spilled oil and to stand against the impacts of other forms of extreme energy.
Four years later, advocates expressed their concerns about President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, feeling it fell short in addressing the issue of keeping dirty fuels in the ground. According to the group’s website, “there’s a rising tide of grassroots activism demanding that we choose a clean energy future over the dangerous and dirty fuels of the 20th century.”