Words are never enough, but have some anyway

So I had to read John Sauven’s* blog post about how sincerely, deeply, utterly sorry he is about the Nazca lines and how strongly he hopes Peru will just take his word for that and stop bothering them.

Words are never enough, he says in the title, and yet they seem to be all he’s offering.

Words are not enough. I know that. But I want to start by saying how deeply disappointed and sorry I am for the activity undertaken in the name of Greenpeace at the Nazca lines in Peru last week during the climate talks.

The place chosen for holding a banner showed a regrettable disregard for the culture of Peru and the importance of not going to fragile and culturally important sites without authorisation. Greenpeace International’s Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo, has this week met with the Peruvian Minister of Culture, who is responsible for the site, to offer an apology. Kumi has assured the Minister that we will fully participate in any investigation into the activity.

“Fully” of course meaning “not including telling Peru who was involved in the ‘activity’.” (Note the evasive word. Trespass, invasion, damage – those would have been better words.) “Fully participate” meaning “in whatever sense we mean by ‘fully’ and not at all what Peru might mean by it.”

In short, he’s basically told an untruth right at the outset. They’re not fully participating.

Greenpeace International is conducting an investigation into how it was possible for this to have happened. The result of this investigation will inform changes that Greenpeace will make to try and ensure something like this can never happen again.

Like the church, like the military, like the universities. But they committed a crime. They don’t get to keep the investigation in-house. Sure, they need to look at their own organization to find out why someone agreed to such a bad move, but they don’t get to be in charge of the whole investigation, and they shouldn’t be stonewalling.

The first comment says that nicely.

The phrase “hold the people responsible accountable” has been tossed about by Greenpeace, without ever defining what that means. Will you turn them over to Peruvian authorities, or will you just withhold their team T-Shirts? You say words are not enough. When will you actually offer more than words? If it was oil rather than footprints spread out over the sacred desert site, would Greenpeace accept an apology from BP or Haliburton?

Would they and should they? No and no.

*Sauven is the executive director of Greenpeace UK.


  1. latsot says

    Gah, the fact that he talks about the organisation’s failings rather than his own says a lot. He distances himself from the organisation he alone seems responsible for.

  2. Pliny the in Between says

    When issuing an apology, I usually find it prudent to stop before any qualifications.

  3. maddog1129 says

    I think it might be possible to ask for amnesty for the foot soldiers, as long as the officers and generals offer themselves up to take the blame. Put you own money and your own person on the line. It’s the ones who created and authorized the action who are most culpable.

  4. Blanche Quizno says

    “Those were rogue members. Associates, rather than affiliates. Mere acquaintances, actually. We barely knew them. We never authorized their vandalism – we didn’t even KNOW about it! How could we possibly be responsible? You don’t expect us to keep our membership on leashes at all times, do you??”

    In an article about Greenpeace’s whaling-ship harassments, from decades ago, I remember it said that they would always go out in *two* Zodiacs. When the authorities appeared, they’d high-tail it back to the dock in their fast inflatables and, upon reaching the dock, jump out and stand there, waiting for the authorities. Upon questioning, it would become clear that neither pilot could remember which craft he’d been in, a fact that made it far more difficult to prosecute them. They’ve been at this sort of thing (evading and avoiding prosecution) for a loooong time, in other words. Don’t expect to catch them with pants down at this point. They’re good.

  5. voriank says

    The comments from Greenpeace operative “Esther” on that post!

    “Humbled by forgiveness…our own internal investigation…find it in their hearts to forgive…”

    Every comment sounds more and more like the ideas of some reality-detached *cult*.

  6. Kevin Kehres says

    Apology not accepted.

    Anymore than I would accept merely the apology of a murderer, rapist, thief, or any other criminal.

    What they did was criminal. They should be jailed.

  7. Omar Puhleez says


    They’ve been at this sort of thing (evading and avoiding prosecution) for a loooong time, in other words. Don’t expect to catch them with pants down at this point. They’re good.

    In general I would say that Greepeace do good, courageous and honorable work. In my opinion the whaling industry is indefensible and on borrowed time, and the whaling nations know it.
    But because Greenpeace activists are fighting the unsustainable and indefensible and are seen by so many as in the superior moral position, it puts them in an analogous position to (say) the Catholic clergy. Greenpeace saves whales; the Church saves souls. Some, enough, of the practitioners in each field believe that this confers holiness, sanctity and a licence to deal with ordinary mortals as parents might deal with their children, or worse: to do things which in other contexts would be seen as crimes, but not so when done in the cause of God, Christ, Gaia, Ecology, Sustainability or whatever.
    When humanity is divided into the Saved and the Damned, Sighted and Blind, Enlightened and Ordinary, etc and etc, the trouble can really start; for the people who do it and for others.

  8. John Morales says

    Omar Puhleez:

    In general I would say that Greepeace do good, courageous and honorable work.

    Would you?

    If you did, I’d note you can’t deny that they do bad, cowardly and dishonourable work sometimes.

    I do agree with your assessment that their self-righteousness is problematic.

  9. Omar Puhleez says

    In general I would say that Greenpeace do good, courageous and honorable work. You obviously don’t agree. OK.
    This thread is about how some Greenpeace activists vandalised an ancient historic site in Peru and then tried to avoid responsibility while denying they were doing so. Youthful activists can get a bit full of themselves and drunk on the heady vintage of changing the world as far as they are concerned for the better. And Christ knows the whalers, sealers and other Greenpeace targets are in the main doing the exact bloody opposite, and in a most unsustainable way.
    As I said in general Greenpeace do good, courageous and honorable work. But when their activists with or without the knowledge of the organisation engage in brainless, counterproductive stunts which do irreparable damage, the individuals responsible should face the full legal consequences. And in this Nazca lines stunt they may have caused the organisation irreparable harm also. Certainly they have changed its image very much for the worse.
    I think that the rest of 2014 and a good part of 2015, 2016 and 2017 is likely to be taken up with crisis meetings over this and the flow-on effects from it. Also family visits to Peruvian jails, which at a guess are not exactly holiday camps.
    Greenpeace may never recover, though I hope it does. But “forgiveness” can only be solely at the discretion of the Peruvians..

  10. John Morales says


    Omar Puhleez,

    In general I would say that Greenpeace do good, courageous and honorable work. You obviously don’t agree. OK.

    I don’t see how it’s obvious, since our claims are not mutually exclusive; you didn’t deny the specific, I didn’t deny the general.

  11. O. Puhleez says

    I didn’t deny the general.

    Is that right?
    Well you certainly questioned it in a manner that IMHO many a reasonable person would take as doing just that.
    But never mind. No big deal.

  12. Omar Puhleez says

    But then again, Greenpeace might just have fallen for the oldest trick in the book. Some outfit that would like to see it shut down sends in an agent provocateur whose brief is to work from the inside to get the organisation to do something stupid and counterproductive. Like, say, this stunt.
    Meanwhile, any rooster who wants to publicise his new massage parlour in downtown Lima organises his own version of it. On the same Nazca lines.

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