(Editor's Note: This past Saturday there was an international solidarity action called "Hands Across the Sand", which is also the name of the sponsoring movement, a movement made up of people of all walks of life that crosses political affiliations. This movement is not about politics;
it is about the protection of our coastal economies, oceans, marine
wildlife, and fishing industries. A number of actions were held in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area, and local author, poet, playwright and journalist D.D. Delaney, attending one of them, chose to report and reflect on the event on his somewhat iconoclastic blog, The Thinking Dog, which I asked him for permission to repost here.)
In Ocean View...
Hands Across the Sand
Thinking Dog's Journal Report
An impressive line of 125 people
joined hands across Norfolk's Community Beach on the Chesapeake Bay in
Ocean View on Saturday, June 26, to demonstrate to politicians and
corporate "persons" their opposition to drilling for oil and gas in the
waters off Virginia's coasts.
Similar demonstrations were held
throughout Hampton Roads--at Buckroe Beach in Hampton and at several
different locations on the Atlantic Ocean in Virginia Beach, where,
according to Sunday's Virginian Pilot, an estimated 1,000
people lined the commercial beach areas alone, between 22nd and 31st
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The demonstrations were part of a
coordinated nation-wide action sponsored by a score of environmental
groups and endorsed by nearly three dozen other environmentally friendly
organizations under the banner of Hands Across the Sand, an advocacy
organization now coming of age after an initial demonstration in Florida
in February, well before the BP oil-rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico
made off-shore drilling toxic.
And while there
may not have been enough people to fill Ocean View's Community Beach
from its south to north boundaries--probably less than a quarter of a
mile--Norfolk organizer Alexander Palmer declared it "a great turnout.
Even some beach-goers," he said, "turned around and decided to join."
It's true. And as an Ocean View
resident myself--a near-daily visitor to the seven-mile stretch of beach
which seduced me to move to Norfolk sixteen years ago, I, too, felt
energized to see so many residents, not just from Ocean View and
Willoughby but from Larchmont, Ward's Corner, Riverview, Little Creek,
Colonial Place, and Ghent--all showing up in 95-degree heat to say that
we not only don't want oil or gas drilling in our offshore waters but we
want our leaders to promote alternative, renewable energy technologies
to replace fossil fuels.
Above all, we do not want an
accident here like the one which has devastated the Gulf.
As demonstrators stood with
joined hands on the beach between the shelter of a picnic pavilion
behind us and, before us, the magnificent expanse of the Chesapeake Bay
reaching over the horizon, a pod of dolphin lazily cruised by--beyond the
sand bar which marks the drop-off into the Bay's deeper waters. They
were the first dolphins I'd seen in the Bay this season and, as it
seemed to me, lent the demonstration their nod of approval, a fortunate
Tommy Smiegel was there, as were many of his campaign workers,
fresh from their victory last month in a successful election challenge
to long-time Ward 5 City Council representative Randy Wright (who was
not there). Smiegel is a fresh face in Norfolk politics, representing a
younger generation coming into power which is friendly, he says, to
Also there was Sharon McDonald,
Norfolk's Commissioner of the Revenue, who told me that energy and
environmental concerns have a growing constituency of support within
City Hall and among some of the area's business leaders. She led me to
believe that positive developments in energy efficiency and investment
in renewable technologies are very likely in the offing.
Smiegel mentioned similar
options which City Council could pursue, such as commissioning solar and
wind generation systems for public schools.
But there was little real
specificity in any of the random conversations I had, either with these
public officials or the many private citizens I chatted with. Maybe it
wasn't the place for much intellectual effort--on the beach in the
Still, I came away with the
impression that, while probably everyone who went there is horrified at
the situation in the Gulf and convinced that we need to wean ourselves
from oil (and presumably gas and coal) and develop wind and solar
alternatives (nukes weren't broached by anyone I talked to), no one has a
very good idea about how to accomplish this very major transition.
What if, for instance, instead
of oil rigs lining the horizon of the Chesapeake Bay, we were to look
out on windmills instead? Not everyone likes that idea!
Nor was it clear what the next
step for the Hands-Across-the-Sand movement should be. Nearly everyone,
it seemed, signed the petition in circulation calling on elected
officials to ban offshore drilling and endorse clean energy, though a
Louisiana judge (with financial ties to energy corporations!) has thrown
out President Obama's six-month moratorium. So it's not even certain
that the BP disaster is going to stop a single new deep-water
oil-drilling license, let alone the hundreds of on-going deep-water
wells pumping today--further conceivable accidents waiting to happen. And
drilling projects outside of deep water apparently continue to get
routinely rubber-stamped by the federal government.
It seems to me, then, that the
major hurdle, which was barely approached in the June 26 demonstrations,
is how to persuade ourselves and our policy-makers to commit to facing
the sober reality of what it means to get off fossil fuels. This is a
conversation which has barely begun, probably because its implications
are so enormous that no one--certainly no politician--wants to stir the
viper's nest of public opinion likely to flare up in attack against any
who address it.
Beyond that major, daunting
hurdle are numerous other serious policy issues involving what kinds of
alternatives to turn to. As Norfolk organizer Palmer notes, "we should
have listened to Jimmy Carter," who tried to make energy conservation a
national priority in the late 1970s. Even then it was late to begin the
conversation, which in reality should have begun in the 1950s. In 2010
you have to wonder if it's too late altogether.
But Palmer--who, incidentally,
works as a victim-witness advocate for the City of Norfolk--has an
activist's enthusiasm for possibilities. Perhaps, he speculates, the
energy powering our future hasn't been discovered yet. "Solar? Wind? Who
knows?" he says. "Let's look," by funding research in many directions
with the billions in subsidies we're now giving to the oil companies.
For local MoveOn.org coordinator
Joe Cook, who provided the demonstration with a useful bull horn, the
next step is "to put pressure on elected officials at every level," from
federal to local, "to wrest control of our democracy from the
corporations." That means a moratorium on off-shore drilling, massive
investments in wind and solar, and ending subsides for oil, nukes, and
coal. Local city councils, meanwhile, can get into the act by passing
resolutions advocating protection of our local shores from the incursion
of polluting energy industries.
Cook also stressed the necessity
for a Constitutional amendment "to roll back Citizens' United," the
Supreme Court decision permitting corporations to channel unlimited
funds into elections; for "the public financing of elections so we can
elect people accountable to the people and not to the corporations;" and
for a five-year waiting period before lobbyists and public officials
can switch jobs.
These are, of course, the public
views of MoveOn.org, based on a recent online survey of its members,
though there's no reason to believe Cook's personal views are any
In any case, as the
demonstration broke up around 12:30 p.m., the answer to my leading
question remained uncertain.
Wavy News (local NBC Channel 10)
covered the demonstration in Ocean View with no more than 30 seconds of
air time on the 6 p.m. broadcast, which included a sentence about the
1,000 who lined the main ocean-front site. The American loss to Ghana in
a World Cup soccer match earned two spots, in headline news and again,
with more detail, in sports.
Maybe if the
Hands-Across-the-Sand people had turned out with coolers of beer, loud
rock'n'roll music, and rowdy cheers for USA Solar and Wind followed by a
mass plunge naked into the Bay, they might have made a greater
Meanwhile, oil continues to gush
out of a sheared pipe a mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico,
and no one knows what to do about it.
Let's just pray that by next
June 26 we don't find many more of us than a few hundred activists out
on our beaches again, not demonstrating but shoveling up BP's tar balls
for minimum wage.
Actor, Playwright, Poet, Journalist
Delaney, the Original Thinking Dog
"Some may think I named the dog after myself.
But that would be wrong.
The fact is, I named myself after the dog."
Welcome to The
Thinking Dog. My name is D.D. Delaney,
and I am the creator and main contributor to this site, with
the exception of Jala Magik's page. Jala, an artist and
writer, is my life-long partner and displays some of her art
work and writings from her unpublished Book of Magik on
On the other pages you will find information on my
and books of plays and poems as well as samples of my various
writings. Since I am also a performer, I have devoted
a "Performances" page to describe material I have in my
repertoire, available for booking at your club, school,
organization, or facility.
In the "Articles and Reviews" section you will find
references to past published work as well as occasional new
material that I want to share.
"Thinking Dog's Journal" is meant for reflections
on current events, both locally in the Hampton Roads, VA, area,
where I live, and nationally, as information comes my way
that seems relevant to a general public.
There is also a page introducing myself in a brief biography,
and a page with contact information, should you want to
communicate with me directly. I
also have two blogs, The Thinking Dog's Journal, where
I occasionally post articles and commentary,
at http://thinkingdog.blogspot.com, and Thinking
Dog Reviews, at http://thinkingdogreviews.blogspot.com,
where I post critical reviews of theater productions and other
occasional arts and culture events in Hampton Roads.
I hope you find our online materials both enlightening and
Thanks for stopping by.