The Green Scene: Hands Across the Sand

At noon on June 26, Asheville residents will have a chance to symbolically join hands with folks around the globe to draw a "line in the sand" against offshore oil drilling.

Help is on the way:  Stewart, 9-year-old Haley, and Sherry Johnson have collected donations of supplies and cash to aid in the cleanup of wildlife affected by the Gulf oil spill. Their latest trip to the Gulf begins June 23. Photo by Jonathan Welch

"This could be the critical turning point in finally changing our country's prehistoric energy policy," declares Hands Across the Sand founder Dave Rauschkolb, who organized the first such event in Florida two months before the April 20 explosion that triggered the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"What I've discovered about this event is that once people find out about it, they want to participate, if they agree with our position against drilling. By joining hands, we will send a clear message to our president, Congress and our elected state leaders that we are opposed to offshore drilling in coastal waters, and we support clean-energy initiatives."

The Asheville gathering will begin at 11 a.m. with speakers explaining how concerned citizens can help create change. There'll also be live music by the Last Ditch Stand and other local groups. At noon, participants will join hands for 15 minutes in a show of solidarity with like-minded people worldwide.

"America should be the world leader in expanding cleaner energy sources, yet our political process is paralyzed by oil money," proclaims event coordinator Cheryl Orengo, who volunteers with MoveOn Asheville. "It is time for our leaders to take bold, courageous steps and open the door to clean energy and renewables and free our country from its addiction to oil."

Locals let their hair down

Several local businesses are taking a more tangible approach to fighting the oil. Lola Salon on Biltmore Avenue has been collecting hair sweepings and boxing them up to send to the gulf. And Marthe Worley of Canine Shear Heaven reports, "I shipped off a bunch of fur, and we're still collecting more." It's all part of a campaign launched by the San Francisco-based nonprofit Matter of Trust, which is collecting hair and fur and stuffing them into pantyhose to produce oil-containment booms that can absorb the gooey crude.

Meanwhile, the Hooters restaurant chain launched "Project Pantyhose," urging employees to drop their used stockings (part of the official uniform) in donation boxes for shipment to a Florida warehouse where the booms would be assembled.

However, a field test conducted during a February oil spill in Texas found that commercial booms absorbed more oil and less water than hair booms. "There is no one who will accept the hair," reports Janet Pace, executive director of the Louisiana Serve Commission. "BP has stated publicly that the hair booms will not work, and they won't accept them."

But according to Asheville resident Matthew Harris of the local group Fur the Gulf, "People still want these booms, even if BP doesn't. There's a huge demand for booms along the coast of Alabama and Florida. BP isn't protecting all those folks from tar balls." Fur the Gulf will host a benefit at Greenlife Grocery Saturday, June 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., where local pet groomers will offer their services and contribute the fur they collect to the cause.

A beastly business

Veteran local wildlife rehabilitators Sherry and Stewart Johnson are leaving June 22 to help with the wildlife-cleanup effort, under the auspices of the Audubon Nature Institute and Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research.

"We went down with Hugo, Andrew and Katrina as well, mostly paying for everything out of our own pockets," says Sherry. "This time, we've been pleasantly surprised at the way folks have stepped up and donated cash and supplies — local veterinarians, physicians, even my daughter's school, Emmanuel Lutheran, pulled together an impressive collection for donation."

If you're tempted to just head down on your own, though, think again. "Most organizations are discouraging ordinary citizens from going down there and trying to help directly with hazardous-material cleanup efforts on the front lines" of the spill, notes Jennifer Rennicks of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a regional sponsor of Hands Across the Sand. "But here's a way that folks can save some fossil fuel and get involved right here in Asheville: Take the money you'd spend on gas for the trip and donate it to your favorite clean-energy organization."

To learn more about Hands Across the Sand, go to http://www.handsacrossthesand.org. For a list of reputable organizations seeking donations, go to http://www.moveon.org.

Susan Andrew can be reached at sandrew@mountainx.com or at 251-1333, ext. 153.
"America should be the world leader in expanding cleaner energy sources, yet our political process is paralyzed by oil money."
Cheryl Orengo, Hands Across the Sand coordinator and volunteer for MoveOn Asheville.

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