Greenpeace Took Things Too Far With the Nazca Lines Stunt
Prior to dawn on December 8, on the occasion of the climate conference in Lima, Greenpeace activists from several countries placed the words, “Time for Change! The Future is Renewable. Greenpeace” at the historic landmark of Nazca in Peru. The message, since it was visible from the sky, was intended to gain the attention of conference attendees. The message did gain attention sure enough, only not in a good way. Peru is furious at the activists for entering the protected area where the Nazca lines are located, and plans to take legal action against them for alleged damage to the site. The New York Times reports:
CARACAS, Venezuela — President Ollanta Humala of Peru criticized the environmental group Greenpeace on Saturday for not respecting his country’s archaeological heritage as authorities said they intended to seek criminal charges against several activists who damaged the fragile desert around the Nazca Lines.
Greenpeace stirred up a storm of controversy in Peru last week after a group of about 12 activists on Monday entered a protected area around the famous lines to place a sign promoting renewable energy on the ground.
Greenpeace has apologized. Annie Leonard, Executive Director for Greenpeace US writes:
I am deeply disappointed that Greenpeace engaged in an action at the sacred Nazca Lines in Peru.
We have been hearing from many of you and I share your frustration and anger about this situation.
The decision to engage in this activity shows a complete disregard for the culture of Peru and the importance of protecting sacred sites everywhere. There is no apology sufficient enough to make up for this serious lack of judgment.
I know my international colleagues who engaged in this activity did not do so with malice, but that doesn’t mitigate the result. It is a shame that all of Greenpeace must now bear.
For many years Greenpeace US has been making a concerted effort to reach out to and collaborate with diverse constituencies, many of whom share different cultures, values and priorities. We know it’s important for us to be a strong ally who can learn from the leadership of our partners and ensure the work we do reflects and supports all communities.
The Nazca Lines situation has undermined the trust of many allies and supporters that we have been working so hard to build.
According to the website, the activists intended “to honor the Nazca people, whose ancient geoglyphs are one of the historic landmarks of Peru. It is believed that one of the reasons for the Nazca’s disappearance can be linked to massive regional climate change . Today, manmade climate change caused by the burning of oil, coal and gas is threatening our future.”
The group’s pre-dawn action at the Nazca lines area likely backfired for several reasons: 1) The protest message is in English, in a country where English is not the native language; 2) They may have damaged the historic and protected area- Peru alleges they did; 3) The ‘Greenpeace Nazca lines incident’ nearly hogs all the attention out of the conference in the first place; 4) It can be viewed by many as an extreme sort of thing to do at exactly the sort of place where the climate denial camp searches for symbolic non sequitur arguments to prove their point; 5) There are some places that you just don’t walk on.