Leaving a footprint at Nazca is like leaving a footprint on the moon

Greg Laden is also outraged by Greenpeace’s vandalism of the Nazca site.

Greenpeace activists entered a restricted area in Peru, where the Nazca lines are located. They drove into the area, and walked around there, and laid out banners. The banners were then photographed from the air (from a drone, as I understand it) to produce a message supporting renewable something. I’m guessing energy. The message was not clear. Nor was the link between their big yellow banners and the sacred and ancient Nazca lines.

This is an abuse of the cultural patrimony of Peru and the native people’s who have lived there.

In this fragile environment, footprints constitute irreparable damage.

One of the Nazca lines was apparently damaged directly, the area around the lines trodden.

As an advocate of renewable energy and supporter of taking action to move in that direction, and an archaeologist, I deeply resent Greenpeace using the Nazca lines as a propaganda tool, and I condemn Greenpeace for thoughtless[ly] damaging this important archaeological site.

I don’t think “thoughtlessly” is the right adverb (and given what he goes on to say, neither does Greg, really). It’s not as if they did it on the spur of the moment, because it’s not a thing you can do quickly and without thinking. They have to have thought about it, so they thought about it and decided to do it. That’s part of what’s so infuriating about it.

With this act in Peru, Greenpeace has made a clear statement. It is a clear statement because this was an act that required organization, funding, decision making, meetings, an OK from various levels up and down the line, etc. at least within the unit of Greenpeace involved. They’ve made a clear statement that Greenpeace as an organization is willing to break the law in an entirely new area. They are willing to violate laws that protect heritage sites. That is a new thing as far as I know for them (though I’ve heard otherwise, see links below). And it is deeply disturbing. It can’t be just a few people involved in this and incidentally using the Greenpeace name.

And it isn’t just breaking the law. Any operation involving Nazca would involve research and knowing something about what they are up against. You can’t plan a project using Nazca and not be aware of the delicacy of the environment, of the fact that numerous people and one or more vehicles on the ground will unavoidably ruin parts of the site. Leaving a footprint at Nazca is like leaving a footprint on the moon (almost). It is nearly as permanent as the lines themselves. Everyone who knows anything about Nazca knows this. These Greenpeace activists must have known this.

So, Greenpeace has made a SECOND statement with this act. Greenpeace has clearly shown that it is willing not only to break Heritage laws in some trivial and non destructive way, but Greenpeace as an organization is willing to physically and permanently damage heritage sites.

On purpose, with malice aforethought.

Greenpeace has also made a THIRD statement with this act. Greenpeace has indicated that it is willing to break heritage law, AND damage a heritage site, for the purpose of making a picture. No whales were saved during the partial eternal destruction of a heritage site. No gyre of garbage was cleaned up while the regional indigenous culture was unceremoniously thrown under the bus. If there was a heritage site who’s preservation was actually doing the equivalent of killing whales (there are such conflicts though mostly involving plants) this might make sense. But this was a heritage site utterly unrelated to anything in the way of conservation or environment being exploited because it is famous to make a vague and not especially effective message.

Being exploited and damaged. A fragile heritage site being exploited and damaged to make a stupid empty advert.

So, the final point is this: Greenpeace is known as an organization willing to break laws, in a big way, to make a larger point. Now, Greenpeace tell us that it is willing to include Heritage laws in that activism. Apologies, consternations, statements of conciliation are not of any interest to me at this point. The individuals and communities that support indigenous rights and heritage can’t afford to extend trust in this sort of situation.

There may be a point where Greenpeace’s response to their own atrocity is sufficient. But I’m 99% sure Greenpeace will never be able to pull off that response.

The first comment said “This is probably the first time I have ever agreed with you 100%.” Same here!


  1. Seth says

    This really surprises (and distresses) me; when I first saw the image, I assume it had been at least partially Photoshopped, at least the banners. It’s really not that difficult to do, and would have been much cheaper than traveling to Peru in the first place, and definitely less destructive.

    Between Greenpeace and PETA, it’s not hard to understand why a lot of people show precious little concern for the environment and other creatures within it.

  2. chirez says

    It strikes me that in doing this, they have made a very specific statement. If it’s a coincidence that Greenpeace have done to that site exactly what they protest others doing to the global ecology, then irony abounds. If not, then someone was thinking very clearly that there are people who will get angry about damage to a heritage site while remaining unconcerned about the ongoing mass extinction. This is in no way a defense of their actions, one atrocious act in protest of another just multiplies the atrocity. I do wonder however, if the juxtaposition is entirely unintentional. It seems unlikely that it would have gone through an entire organisational hierarchy without somebody noticing.

  3. James Howde says

    I’d say it’s the action of people who know they are right.

    The rest of the world (well at least the Peru portion) might have decided the lines are too important to let anybody near them in an uncontrolled way (and I’d bet most of the people involved in the stunt would agree with that) – but obviously this doesn’t apply to Greenpeace because their cause is just and their authority comes from a higher place than the sordid world of man’s laws.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *