Mississippians join international environmental movement

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Coastal residents added their voices to those calling for the end of energy policies that hurt the environment. The Hands Across the Sand demonstrations took place on beaches around the world on Saturday. In South Mississippi, the concern centered around the state government's plan to allow offshore drilling off coastal waters.

For five minutes people stood hand in hand on Ocean Springs Front Beach.

"It's part of our many efforts to show that we do care. We don't need oil rigs in the Mississippi Sound or around the barrier islands," said Steve Shepard of the Sierra Club.

If drilling is allowed in the Mississippi Sound, the 12 Miles South Coalition said the local economy would suffer. So group wants any oil rigs to be at least 12 miles south of the barrier islands.

Raleigh Hoke of the Gulf Restoration Network said, "This is really about protecting our coastal tourism industry. As people are coming to the coast, they don't want to sit on a beach and see drilling rigs right of the coast. We don't want to see that either because our economy here is so based on tourism."

"We're not saying we can't have rigs," said Shepard. "But we need them so far out and so far away that they don't affect the economic activity of our visitors. We obviously need more visitors we don't need less visitors."

By taking part in an international stand against irresponsible drilling, the Coalition hopes to make the community realize the threat to South Mississippi beaches.

"Drilling rigs also mean more industrial ship traffic. More pipe lines and a greater risk of accidents and even catastrophes like the BP disaster," Hoke said

"I think the Hands Across The Sands is a way of saying we want a better world in the future. We don't want to do the things that are ruining our planet," Shepard said. "People need to realize when we are not separate from Mother Nature. We are dependent on Mother Nature so when we mess with Mother Nature we're really messing with our own future."

Recently, Harrison County supervisors passed a resolution opposing oil and gas drilling in the Sound within 12 miles south of the barrier islands.

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