Hands Across the Sand participants lock hands and spread out across the shore of Clayoquot Island on May 19. The international movement is a 15-minute peaceful gathering to promote clean energy and ending fossil fuel investments. (Photo: Arya Touserkani / Surfrider Pacific Rim Volunteer)

Hundreds call for a clean energy future at Hands Across the Sand event in Tofino

Surfrider Pacific Rim and Friends of Clayoquot Sound team up to host the peaceful gathering

Artist Matt Epp was among the crowd of environmentally concerned folks to participate in the third annual Hands Across the Sand event over the May Long weekend on Clayoquot Island Preserve, located a short boat ride from Tofino.

Throughout the fleeting, yet powerful peaceful gathering, Epp held a handcrafted sign in the shape of a red-winged blackbird.

“The red-winged blackbird is the centre of the amoria flag and amoria is the empire of love,” Epp explained.

“The message of this red-winged blackbird is to be in a state of intention to love and serve others. In this case, it’s being attached to the good intentions of these people on the beach and of the shoreline clean up and water protection. This bird is well-known for living next to the water, so it makes complete sense to be part of this initiative,” Epp said.


Matt Epp displays the red-winged blackbird sign.

Hands Across the Sand is an international movement that brings together people to promote a clean energy future. By creating a human line across the length of their local beach, thousands of people from across the world stand in solidarity to say ‘No’ to investing in fossil fuel and ‘Yes’ to clean energy solutions.

Surfrider Pacific Rim chapter manager Lilly Woodbury brought a special surfboard to Tofino’s Hands Across the Sand event for participants to add their signature.

“This surfboard we put together because it’s an icon for the region. Donated by Smith Western Shapes and designed by Surfshine Art, it says, ‘We all enjoy and depend on the ocean, beaches, and waves. Canada must implement a strategy for plastic pollution and declare a climate emergency’,” said Woodbury.

“The reason we chose [plastic pollution] is because the plastic industry uses eight per cent of the global oil supply, which includes the manufacturing, the transportation and the cooling of all of these plastic products, especially of virgin plastics,” said Woodbury, who holds a double major in Environmental Studies and Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto.

“The plastics impacts is two-fold: the green house gas emissions caused by the plastics industry as well as the pollution caused by the improper disposal of the plastics, which we are facing here on the coast continually,” she said.


Surfrider Foundation volunteers stand with the special surfboard they created to raise awareness about plastic pollution and climate change.

Friends of Clayoquot Sound campaigner Jeh Custerra welcomed participants to the sandy white shores of Clayoquot Island.

“We’re here today on the unceded territories of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nations: the Tla-o-qui-aht, the Ahousaht, the Hesquiaht. It is upon their legacy of protection to care for the territories that we are building today,” said Custerra.

He re-iterated Surfrider Pacific Rim’s call for Canada to declare a climate emergency.

“We have the ability to do it, we just don’t have the political will right now. Canada’s emissions according the International panel on climate change for stationary sources such as oil and gas are 45 per cent of our emissions. If projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline go ahead, we won’t be able to reach our commitments under the UN Paris Agreement,” said Custerra.

READ: B.C. argues it cannot stop Trans Mountain, but it can protect environment

READ: Liberals push Tories to show climate-policy hand with climate-change motion

On May 16, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna tabled a motion to declare a climate emergency in the House of Commons.

If passed, the House would have to formally declare that Canada “is in a national climate emergency which requires, as a response, that Canada commit to meeting its national emissions target under the Paris Agreement and to making deeper reductions in line with the Agreement’s objective of holding global warming below two degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

The House of Commons is on break until May 27. The Westerly News reached out to MP Gord Johns office in Ottawa for confirmation on when a vote would take place. They were unable to confirm a date.

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