#GullahGeechee Stand at Hands Across the Sand

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On Saturday, May 21, 2016,  Oceana, Don’t Drill Lowcountry, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, (SACE), hosted a Hands Across the Sand event on Folly Beach, at which members of the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition joined over a hundred others to join hands as a visual display of “drawing a line in the sand” to show support for the federal government’s recent decision to cancel plans for Atlantic offshore drilling, and also to increase awareness about the threat of seismic airgun blasting off the East Coast. The event, which took place at noon, was one of more than 50 along the Atlantic coast and included comments from Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin, Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, State Senator Chip Campsen, and other community leaders. 

Senator Chip Campsen said, “I’ve spent time in the Gulf of Mexico’s marine industry.  I’ve experienced the extensive onshore infrastructure necessary to support offshore drilling. That degree of industrialization is wholly incompatible with the residential, historic and natural resource land uses that dominate South Carolina’s beautiful coast.”

The event celebrated the recent cancellation of a scheduled offshore lease sale to oil companies, but also pushed for additional and longer-lasting protections, including calling for the cancellation of plans for seismic airgun blasting, an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor proposed in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida.

“The fight to protect the Atlantic is not over,” said Samantha Siegel, campaign organizer at Oceana. “Coastal communities remain united in their opposition to offshore drilling activities off our coast. Saturday’s event drew a clear line in the sand against offshore drilling exploration and development. With offshore drilling off the table, there’s even less reason for us to still be considering seismic airgun blasting off our coast. It’s time for President Obama to stop seismic airgun blasting before it’s too late. The risks are simply too great.”

Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and the Founder of the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition points out “Gullah/Geechees have sustained their families and their fishing traditions from not only our creeks and estuaries, but from the Atlantic Ocean.  So, having seismic gun testing along our coast would bring irreparable harm not only to the balance of the ecosystem due to the sea creatures that would depart to escape this noise pollution, but also to the ability of a culture that has been recognized nationally and internationally to be continued and sustained along this coast.  The money that these industry people claim would come in could never be enough to pay for the loss of cultural heritage that exist here!”

Alice Morrisey, co-founder of the local grassroots citizens group Don’t Drill SC Lowcountry remarked, “Some of us forget that we live in paradise until we go down to the shore. The sand, the salt air, the waves lapping at our feet calm our souls. There is a vast world beneath the sea where whales, dolphins, turtles, fish and other marine life dwell. But offshore drilling and seismic blasting would disrupt the ocean’s peace for coastal residents and wonderous sea creatures alike. Though President Obama removed offshore leases for oil and gas from Atlantic coast states until 2022, seismic airgun blasting is still being considered off our coast.  Coastal residents and citizen-led grassroots groups like Don’t Drill SC Lowcountry are uniting; calling on Obama to cancel plans for seismic airgun blasting for oil and gas in the Atlantic.”

Chris Carnevale, Coastal Climate & Energy Manager at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said, “Now is not the time for the oil industry’s phony promises of energy prosperity from the risky, yet meager offshore petroleum resources. Real energy solutions for South Carolinians come in the form of energy efficiency, solar, wind, and clean transportation fuels, which boost our economy without sacrificing our environment and quality of life.” He added, “Energy efficiency is still woefully underutilized even as South Carolinians pay among the highest power bills in the South. South Carolina has made tremendous progress in solar power recently, adding nearly 200 jobs in just the past 6 months with our major utilities investing in cost effective solar farms. The viability of our coastal wind resource is being proven now as the first coastal wind farm in the Southeast is being built just to the north in North Carolina. Meanwhile recent innovations in electric vehicles point the way toward an oil-free transportation system.”

Oceana recently released a new set of maps that show the threat of seismic airgun blasting to important marine ecosystems off the East Coast. Specifically, the maps depict the overlap between current seismic airgun permit application areas in the Atlantic and known habitats for at-risk turtles, whales and sharks, as well as commercially and recreationally important fish species. Along the Atlantic coast, nearly 1.4 million jobs and over $95 billion in gross domestic product rely on healthy ocean ecosystems, mainly through fishing, tourism and recreation.

“The noise from seismic airgun blasting is so loud it can be heard up to 2,500 miles from the source, roughly the distance from Washington, D.C. to Las Vegas,” said Siegel. “In addition to being extremely loud, these blasts are of special concern to marine life, including fish, turtles and whales, that depend on sound for communication and survival. Oceana’s maps clearly show that seismic airgun blasting could threaten coastal communities, economies, fisheries and marine mammals. Off South Carolina’s coast, North Atlantic right whales, loggerhead sea turtles, essential fish habitat for numerous species, and proposed Special Management Zones for grouper and snapper spawning sites are particularly vulnerable to these dangerous activities.”

Last year, 75 leading marine scientists sent a letter to President Obama on the impacts of seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic, stating that “the magnitude of the proposed seismic activity is likely to have significant, long-lasting, and widespread impacts on the reproduction and survival of fish and marine mammal populations in the region, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, of which approximately only 500 remain.”

And just last month, 28 right whale scientists sent a similar letter stating that “the additional stress of widespread seismic airgun surveys may well represent a tipping point for the survival of this endangered whale, contributing significantly to a decline towards extinction.”

To date more than 110 East Coast municipalities, as well as more than 100 Members of Congress, 750 state and local elected officials, 1,100 business interests, including 25 business associations and chambers of commerce, the Gullah/Geechee Nation leaders, and fishing interests such as the Mid- and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, the Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association, the Billfish Foundation, the International Game Fish Association and the Southeastern Fisheries Association, have all publicly opposed offshore drilling and/or seismic airgun use. Each has cited threats to marine life, coastal communities and local economies.

Oceana’s own analysis finds that offshore wind would produce twice the number of jobs and twice the amount of energy as offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, without the risk of a catastrophic spill. For South Carolina specifically, offshore wind would produce nearly 3 times more jobs and 9 times more energy than offshore drilling in 20 years.

For more information about Oceana’s campaign to protect the Atlantic Ocean from seismic airgun blasting and offshore drilling, please visit www.StopTheDrill.org.   Also, join the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition to continue to assist with keeping the pressure on to stop environmental harm to the Gullah/Geechee Nation‘s coast.  Go to www.gullahgeechee.net and email GullGeeCo@aol.com.

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The Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition
  • advocates for the rights of all Gullah/Geechee people around the world
  • promotes and participates in the preservation of Gullah/Geechee history, heritage, culture, and language.
  • works toward Sea Island land re-acquisition and maintenance.
  • celebrates Gullah/Geechee culture through artistic and educational means electronically and via “grassroots scholarship.”
Membership in the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition is open to all people around the world that want to work toward these goals.  To learn more, please go to www.gullahgeechee.net.

Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation. We run science-based campaigns and seek to win policy victories that can restore ocean biodiversity and ensure that the oceans are abundant and can feed hundreds of millions of people. Oceana victories have already helped to create policies that could increase fish populations in its countries by as much as 40 percent and that have protected more than 1 million square miles of ocean. We have campaign offices in the countries that control close to 40 percent of the world’s wild fish catch, including in North, South and Central America, Asia, and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.

Hands Across the Sand is an international day of action on which activists and beachgoers alike send a message to the world that dirty offshore drilling be replaced with clean, renewable energy sources like offshore wind. Participants across America join hands to “draw a line in the sand” and create a powerful visual statement against Big Oil. To learn more, please visit www.handsacrossthesand.org.

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a not-for-profit, non partisan organization working to promote responsible energy choices that work to address the impacts of global climate change and ensure clean, safe and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. To learn more, please visit http://www.cleanenergy.org

Don’t Drill SC-Lowcountry is a citizen-led non-partisan grassroots movement to protect South Carolina’s spectacular coastline from offshore drilling. To learn more, please visit http://dontdrillsc-lowcountry.org

2 Comments

  1. Jan

    Thank you, Queen for being there to advocate for those of us who care, but can’t be there. I never would have known of these problems if it were not for you.

    • Hunnuh Welcum Jan!

      I am driven to continue to stay aware of the things that can negatively impact our coast and to stand up against them. So, I am glad to know that my living and work are not in vain because if it matters to at least one more person, it is worth doing!

      Peace,
      Queen Quet

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