Hands to fight tar

Event draws hand-holders to beaches to stand against dirty energy

Hundreds of Victorians will link hands at Willows Beach Saturday, Aug. 4, to stand for clean shorelines.

Event draws hand-holders to beaches to stand against dirty energy

There is something you can do.

That’s the message organizers of Hands Across the (Tar) Sands are holding this week, as hundreds of Victorians prepare to join hands with global neighbours to come together in honour of clean beaches and to protest dirty energy.

“When we held our first event after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, people told me they were walking around paralyzed and shocked, and with this sense of deep hopelessness,” says organizer Renee Lindstrom. “When they came to the beach, more than 400 people linked hands and there was hope. This is not your typical environmental activist moment — this is about connection.”

That connection is especially timely for British Columbians, as residents across the province stand up against the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project — a project that even former federal environment minister David Anderson has argued is not in Canada’s best interest.

Now, Victorians will have the chance to hold hands again in the third-annual event at Willows Beach on Sat., Aug. 4, at noon. But while Lindstrom has heard from many people who are resistant to the idea of activism, she calls the Hands event “inner activism.”

“My personal perspective is that change happens individually with each person, so that change is going to come when we recognize the value of what’s important to us,” says Lindstrom.

Lindstrom has lived in Victoria for 20 years, but spent her childhood in the Queen Charlotte Islands (now Haida Gwaii) and spent every day on the beach, she says, which developed her “deep love” for the ocean and marine environment.

“I have teenage children and recognized that my childhood would not be available to them, so I felt like I had to do something,” she says.

For the last three years, Lindstrom has partnered with fellow activist Zia Cole to bring Hands Across the Sand to their city, after founder Dave Rauschkolb launched the idea in Florida as a response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The concept quickly caught on world-wide and more than 1,000 events were held in 43 countries. While the 2011 event focused on the disasters in Japan and debris that was sure to affect coastlines everywhere, Dave Rauschkolb nicknamed the 2012 event “Hands Across the Tar Sands” in support of the struggle Western Canada is facing.

“This really is a wake up call,” Lindstrom says. “We simply need to recognize that we have a responsibility to acknowledge what’s going on. This is personal now — the tar sands are coming home and are going to affect our beaches.”

Lindstrom says she has no estimates on how many people to expect at this year’s event, though hand-delivered invitations have gone out to aboriginal communities in the area, and the group is hoping for a turnout of 1,000 people or more. While the model is 15 minutes of silent handholding (which will start at noon sharp), participants are invited to come out to the base of the Willows Beach teahouse at 11am for an hour of connection festivities, speeches by aboriginal advocate Rose Henry and special guests, along with singing, dancing and more.

“It might not seem like holding hands for 15 minutes is a big thing, but you would be amazed at the power it has,” says Lindstrom. “When we come together, regardless of who we are in the world, that’s when change happens.” M

For more information, visit the group’s Facebook page “Hands Across the Sands – Victoria, BC,” or see the global event website at: handsacrossthesand.com.

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