Nazca Lines: Greenpeace Damages One Of World's Most Sacred Places

How Greenpeace Wrecked One of the Most Sacred Places in the Americas

Greenpeace can get a little aggressive with its tactics. That doesn't mean that it's not fighting for a good cause! But after the organisation marched through the sacred Nazca Lines etched into the Peruvian desert for a climate protest, capturing it all on camera with a drone, you have to wonder what the hell they were thinking. Greenpeace isn't the best at thinking things through though.

In fact, this is far from the first time Greenpeace has screwed up, though this latest episode of Greenpeace Being Reckless is particularly atrocious. The environmental group has a long, long history of insensitive or poorly-staged actions, ranging from big — like helping to destroy a GMO crop designed to prevent blindness — to small — like papering a small town with posters the day after a community cleanup.

In case you missed io9's post about the outrage, here's a recap: The environmental activists wanted to send a message to government officials from around with world who are attending a climate change conference in Lima this week. So they headed to the Nazca Desert, one of the most famous and archaeologically significant sites in Peru, to lay down a bunch of yellow banners that spelled out: "TIME FOR CHANGE! THE FUTURE IS RENEWABLE! GREENPEACE."

How Greenpeace Wrecked One of the Most Sacred Places in the Americas

The message is practically on top of the hummingbird geoglyph, which is now surrounded by their footprints. And the irony is thick. The future may be renewable, but these fragile, ancient drawings are not.

"This has been done without any respect for our laws," Peru's deputy minister for culture Luis Jaime Castillo told the press, calling Greenpeace's actions "thoughtless, insensitive, illegal, irresponsible and absolutely pre-meditated." He explained further: "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. Nobody can go on these lines without permission — not even the president of Peru!"

Castillo, unfortunately, isn't exaggerating when he says the damage was severe. This is what the hummingbird drawing looked like before Greenpeace stormed in:

How Greenpeace Wrecked One of the Most Sacred Places in the Americas

This is what the hummingbird drawing looks like now — the area outlined in red is the damage caused by Greenpeace:

How Greenpeace Wrecked One of the Most Sacred Places in the Americas

Aside from the blatant insensitivity at play, the reason Greenpeace's actions were so atrocious has everything to do with how fragile the drawings and surrounding ecosystem are. The Nazca drawings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, date back to between 400 and 650 AD, when the area was inhabited by the ancient Nazca culture. The Nazca people created them by digging long, shallow trenches that became figures — spiders, monkeys, fish, birds, etc. — when viewed from above. They stand out from the rest of the landscape because the gravel on top of the soil is dark, but when the rocks are removed, light-coloured clay is exposed.

Greenpeace activists stomping around the drawings is kind of like walking on a Mondrian painting while it was still wet. While most of the hummingbird form itself appears to be intact, the footprints uncovered the light soil underneath, wrecking the once pristine archaeological site. Greenpeace did trod on one of the lines.

How Greenpeace Wrecked One of the Most Sacred Places in the Americas

As Patricio Murillo points out in a blog post about the tragic destruction, folks like researchers wear special shoes to avoid leaving traces. And as you can see above, the Greenpeace activists just wore regular old sneakers. Because why bother researching how to treat a sacred site when you want to dump your organisation's advertisement on top of it and take drone selfies.

"[The drawings] are absolutely fragile. They are black rocks on a white background. You walk there and the footprint is going to last hundreds or thousands of years," Castillo said. "And the line that they have destroyed is the most visible and most recognised of all."

Greenpeace is sorry. Nevertheless, Peru is opening a criminal investigation and trying to keep the activists from leaving the country. The country says it will press charges of "attacking archaeological monuments" that are punishable by up to six years in prison. Greenpeace is really sorry.

How Greenpeace Wrecked One of the Most Sacred Places in the Americas

This is far from the first time Greenpeace has gotten in trouble for doing something dumb. The organisation actually does this kind of thing not infrequently. Back in 2006, Greenpeace caused a big stink about how electronics were polluting the environment, but then it turned out that their report on which companies was the worst distorted the facts significantly. This is around the same time that they also took flak for being a bunch of luddites, crowing about how technology was ruining the world. And then there was the time they tried to tell the native people of Greenland what they should eat.

This isn't the first time the lines have been damaged. It might be the most absurd, though. You'd think that an organisation as huge and famous as Greenpeace, a group of activists dedicated to saving the planet, would think twice before stomping around one of the most sacred spots in the Americas. You'd think someone would speak up and question the sensibility of such a plan. But hey, Greenpeace got the headlines — just not the headlines it wanted. [io9]

Pictures: AP

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    Greenpeace, I used to admire you. I admired the way you respected the earth that we live on and were not afraid to stand up for that. Now you've proven yourselves to be hypocrites. Basically, you suck.

      Perhaps the industrialists have infiltrated greenpeace (don't forget that the authorities here have members in every group of any size or power whatsoever).

    If groups like Greenpeace don't wake us all out of our lethargy about anthropogenic climate change, there will soon be no humming birds, no fish, no trees... in fact, if we don't shut down the fossil fuel industry ASAP, there will not be a suitable climate for any large life forms on Earth. The science is settled, but few people realise how much on the tipping point our climate is.

    No, I am not a member of Greenpeace, but I know of how ethical the organisation is and how much good work they do to try and save the planet for all of us. If they make mistakes, that proves they are only human - they mean well and I'm sure they are sorry for any damage or offence. Things are really drastic and people are not being told how bad it is. Are you an AGW denier? Can you look at this site and the information on it and not be frightened?


      Asians Gone Wild?

        Damn right. If you haven't opened your eyes to the tragic situation of AGW, you're BLIND to the damage that is being caused by good hard working Asians leaving their maths books, science cubicles and programming jobs to be normal people!

        And on topic: those bloody idiots. I hope Peru's government does throw the book at them.

        Anthropogenic Global Warming :)
        The concept that human activities are partly responsible for the observed sharp increase in global heating.

      People are being told, all the time and in many different forums. It is just that most messages do not involve the substantial desecration of an archeological site. This does not speak for a simple mistake in the generally good works of Greenpeace, but of an apparent self-righteousness and an astonishing ignorance. Being very disturbed by the actions of Greenpeace in this and other instances has nothing whatsoever to do with AGW denial - that is a rather pathetic way to defend the undefensible

    Irrespective of how righteous the cause is, shouldn't we always hold promotion/awareness/discourse tactics in a certain light of scrutiny? It seems like certain causes are exempt from this.

    What would you expect from an organisation dominated by middle class, "educated" westerners who are in reality as thick as bricks despite their toilet paper degrees in environmental science or social work. After desecrating this unique ancient monument they probably all went off to feed their toddlers unpasteurised milk. I hope they all get to see the inside of a Peruvian prison for a long time.

    I have always hated the way Greenpeace operates. They are probably best described as Eco-terrorists. They are extremists whose members manipulate scientific data to "support" their current hot topic to attract more funding. The only thing that frustrates me more are the self-righteous and ignorant statements that spew from their supporters vegan / soy breathed mouths.

    Last edited 13/12/14 7:16 pm

      No need to taint all vegans as being lunatics.

        No, just the ones that don't eat meat.

    Suck shit to them, I hope they're thrown in Peruvian jail. Seriously, their end result was that drone picture, unless they planned to cause damage and an outrage they could of achieved the same thing with an aerial shot and photoshop.

    Last edited 13/12/14 8:23 pm

      If they're thrown in jail they will just regard themselves as martyrs. Personally I'd like to see them do long periods of community service aiding researchers to repair the damage. That would be way more humiliating.

        I doubt it, these smug arsehats could take bragging rights form that too. I don't think anyone is having a good time in a South American jail.

          Now that all must read this book!

    It was probably a great natural environment before our human ancestors carved it up. That is always forgotten. The people who built the monument were the eco-criminals of their day.

      It was probably a great piece of canvas until DaVinci ruined it with the Mona Lisa. It was probably a great hilltop until the Inca's carved it up to build Machu Picchu. It was probably a great natural desert environment until our human ancestors carved it up to build some pyramids. Your house is probably build to a great block of dirt too. Your "eco-criminals" were an ancient people who created something amazing in alignment with their cultural and religious beliefs.

      I know. Those lines in the dirt are absolutely destroying the natural habitats of nothing!

      It was probably a great thread until you commented on it. That is always forgotten. The Rudy who wrote that comment was the opinion-criminal of his day.

    People are hating on Greenpeace for the "environmental damage" they caused in Peru, but I didn't see people up in arms and posting about memes about this last year, so I'm calling you all out as hypocrites.

    Last edited 14/12/14 10:26 am

      Those lines were on private land. Not ideal, but I guess he can do what he wants. As apposed to Greenpeace who trespassed on sacred land where senior government officials aren't even allowed to enter.

      Not to mention they Greenpeace are supposed to be an environmental conservation organisation, yet they recklessly damaged something of such cultural significance just to promote themselves in a way that could easily be achieved with Photoshop.

      Last edited 15/12/14 5:39 am

    I consider Greenpeace to be just as bad as the extremists on the other side of the fence.

    Sheer idiocy by Greenpeace. Not impressed at all.

    Stupid idea, but the photos of the 'damage' don't really show anything, a photo from the same angle as the 'before' of the hummingbird might show what really happened. From these photos it is hard to see if anything is actually damaged or not.

    I'm sure a year in a Peruvian jail would send a message this is not acceptable.

    Jesus, Alan Jones much dix?

    Last edited 14/12/14 6:37 pm

    It kinda worked: It created awareness, and now we all know that Greenpeace leads the world in being one of the biggest bunch of dickheads.

    Greenpeace does a lot of good in the world, but it has to be held accountable for what it does wrong, and especially all those involved in their wrongs. Like this moron in twitter:

    Come on people! Anyone can tell the photos are not exact. Let's not be moronic. Though true Greenpeace f'd up though there is no determination that there was damage other than footprints. Not what some photo probably shows normal tourist activity from a dated photo in comparison to a photo showing no activity or a different angle. I call BS.

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