An auspicious day with an early morning lunar eclipse, Saturday rose and lengthened along Folly Beach, bringing hot muggy temperatures. Vacationing families and locals flocked to the shore with the grackles and gulls.
Hands Across the Sand, a rally for clean energy/vigil for the ocean brought an additional 205 people trooping to the beach that day. Participants formed a hand-linked line of sunburnt sweaty flesh, a fragile length when compared to the ocean against which they stood, but a powerful statement nonetheless, stretching nearly a quarter mile from the pier. Beachgoers dipped under participants’ clasped hands to get to the ocean, or joined hands when they learned the display was simultaneously a call for responsibility and an homage to the ocean.
The event, an international gathering of 850 communities at their respective shores, was led locally, with hopeful enthusiasm, by Toni Reale of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. Prior to the procession, she and other speakers called for a change in habits, raised awareness, and encouraged all to “deliver a message” to elected officials, demanding clean energy alternatives.
An astute witness of the ongoing environmental devastation caused by human bad practices must conclude, however, that the activists, politicians, environmentalists, and corporate energy hawks (coal and oil) all suffer from a delusion:
Loss of human life in the mines and rigs, loss of livelihoods, and loss of the environment supporting such livelihoods does nothing to change the destructive daily habits many Americans believe to be necessary and sufficient for life.
On the other hand, like a jenga game, the loss of the Gulf marsh and marine habitat will irreversibly change the lives of Americans, conceivably the world population, as it brings ecosystems taken for granted, actually necessary for life, crashing down.
Nothing can be said to make anyone more aware of these harsh and contradictory realities. Rhetoric is wasted. All that is left is a choice to live responsibly, which in time, will not be a choice at all.
You can nobly ask, with Mike Ardent of SurfRider Foundation, “Why are gas guzzlers still socially acceptable?” And you can point out, in his words as well, that response to this travesty will be “a question of character.” You can join Toni Reale in innovative imagining of a sustainable future. But as Bron Taylor, author of Dark Green Religion, points out, history, recent and ancient, has shown that “the overwhelming likelihood is that just and sustainable societies will remain elusive.”
“Yet,” Taylor continues, “this ought not deter us from pursuing these goals.” What speaks volumes is a public display of fragile human beings stretching in a skinny line against the backdrop of rough waves and rising heat. It looks absurd from the viewpoint of the brown pelican flying overhead. But it attests to a hopeful human spirit and an earth thankfully bigger than those best efforts.
“With a deepened sense of humility,” Taylor concludes, “we can view our participation in social [environmental] movements more as Gandhi did, as experiments in truth . . . take ourselves a bit less seriously, celebrate the everyday miracles of life, and act with greater kindness to our comrades and adversaries.” From this perspective, Hands Across the Sand represented a real, rare act of justice and sustainability.