Cal Miller may live in Galloway, but his beach is in Ocean City.
That beach is where he surfs, boogey boards and kayaks in that part of the Atlantic OCean. His life, he said, is surrounded by the water.
That’s a major reason why he came out to the Ocean City “Hands Across the Sand” event. He was one of about a dozen environmental advocates from the South Jersey area who created the links in a human chain on the beach at Corson Inlet State Park, representing their solidarity against offshore and deepwater drilling.
“This is just a wonderful thing,” said Miller, looking around at several families who gathered at the beach. “For the longest time, I was a boiler operator in Atlantic City, and I think that prompted me to look more and more into clean energy.”
“Hands Across the Sand” is an international movement that occurred on Saturday, participants on the East and West Coast of the U.S., as well as in several other continents around the world. The events started in 2010 following the devastating oil spill in the Gulf Coast.
Margo Pellegrino, a member of the South Jersey Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, the group who sponsored the local event, said this year’s “Hands Across the Sand” has a special significance. This year, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management released a draft proposing sites for oil and gas development, with potential leasing from 2017 to 2022.
Members of the federal bureau held a meeting in Atlantic City in March on the topic of oil drilling at the 2017-22 proposals. One lease sale could occur in the Atlantic Ocean, though a specific location has yet to be determined.
“This is our line,” Pellegrino said, her voice carrying past the waves. “For the creatures and for us.”
Promoting clean land and beaches is not just a viewpoint of South Jersey residents. John Bonino, vice chair of the local Surfriders Foundation chapter, said several state government representatives have also been against drilling off the Atlantic Ocean’s coast.
“I want to put a dagger through its heart,” said U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, in a January story in the Press of Atlantic City, of a federal offshore drilling plan. “I want to create a hue and a cry along the Eastern Seaboard.”
Protesting offshore drilling can help preserve the beaches, which not only benefits year-round residents but the ever-important tourists that visit the coastal beaches each summer, he said.
“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children,” Bonino said, quoting famed Native American Chief Seattle.
That’s why Upper Township resident Jordan Hemberger brought her two young daughters — Cori, 4, and Reese, 6 — to the “Hands Across the Sand” event. The surfer mom said she brings her daughters to the beach often, teaching them not to litter.
“They even go up to other people, if they see littering, and tell them, ‘You can’t do that’,” Hemberger said of her kids. “I want to instill the thought that they should preserve what they love.”