Greenpeace Treads Over Historic Site, Then Apologizes to Peru
It's not hard to argue that the environmental activist group Greenpeace takes action with good intentions in mind. Their latest stunt, for instance, was intended to send a message about climate change to leaders and ministers at the ongoing UN climate talks in Peru. However, they treaded across a sacred and delicate world heritage site to do so, earning significant global backlash in the process.
Before dawn on Monday, 20 Greenpeace activists from seven countries unfurled massive yellow letters at a historic landmark of Nazca in Peru, delivering the message "Time for Change: The Future is Renewable."
They recorded their entire trek to the site, showing how their message can be found mere feet away from "the hummingbird," one of Peru's most iconic Nazca lines - a delicate geoglyph formation created by the ancient Nazca people between 400 and 650 AD that is still visible by plane today. (Scroll to read on...)
[Credit: David Mack via Greenpeace]
According to Greenpeace, the Nazca's disappearance can be attributed to massive regional shift in weather patterns, making them a prime example of what could happen to vulnerable regions like the Philippines if nothing is done to mitigate what they call "manmade climate change."
The Philippines was battered by Typhoon Hagupit on Tuesday, killing at least 25 people despite one of the largest peacetime evacuation efforts ever taken in the country's history. Greenpeace claims that such extreme weather is the direct result of inaction to halt climate change.
"Our people are suffering every year from the dangerous impacts of climate change. For countries like the Philippines, this is now a question of survival," Greenpeace Philippines' Jasper Inventor said in a statement following the stunt. "The inaction of world leaders is putting our future at risk. Now is the time to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for using our atmosphere as a toilet and ensure major emitting countries commit to ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Now is the time for the Philippines to quit coal." (Scroll to read on...)
However, despite the arguably noble goals of Greenpeace, the Peruvian government, people, and even other environmental groups did not approve of the stunt.
"The Nasca lines are in a restricted area. No one is allowed to enter it, but for a reason," the Asociación Maria Reiche told Greenpeace via social media Monday. "The Hummingbird figure is about 1km away from the nearest highway with some other 1000s of other lines criss crossing up to that area. Can you secure that no damage was done, considering you arrived at the place when it was still dark?"
Peru's vice-minister for culture Luis Jaime Castillo later told media that the Greenpeace stunt was "careless" and "extreme environmentalism."
"This has been done without any respect for our laws. It was done in the middle of the night. They went ahead and stepped on our hummingbird, and looking at the pictures we can see there's very severe damage," Castillo said, according to The Guardian. "Nobody can go on these lines without permission - not even the president of Peru!"
The Guardian goes on to report that Peruvian authorities are currently seeking to identify the archaeologists who led the activists to the site, and charges may be pressed against all who were involved.
On Wednesday, Greenpeace International released a formal apology concerning the matter.
"We fully understand that this looks bad. Rather than relay an urgent message of hope and possibility to the leaders gathering at the Lima UN climate talks, we came across as careless and crass," the statement reads. "We take personal responsibility for actions, and are committed to nonviolence. Greenpeace is accountable for its activities and willing to face fair and reasonable consequences."
According to the group, their international executive director, Kumi Niadoo, intends to meet with authorities in Lima by the end of this week, to offer his personal apologies and discuss what actions, if any, will be taken against Greenpeace.
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