To paraphrase Voltaire: I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it by defacing a United Nations World Heritage Site.
Actually, wait, the other way around. Yeah, it’s definitely the other way around.
Environmental activists are savaging Greenpeace, typically an ally of the preservation movement, after the group’s activists trespassed into a restricted area in Peru and laid out a series of large, yellow letters reading, “Time for change! The future is renewable! Greenpeace” right next to Nazca Lines. This complex network of lines is composed of rocks that, when viewed from the air, form pictures of animals like hummingbirds, monkeys, and killer whales. It is one of the most breathtaking sights in Peru.
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The lines are thought to have been built by the Nazca people of southern Peru between 400 and 650 AD. They’re also typically off-limits for visitors, because even the smallest footprint has the potential to do permanent damage. This is precisely what the Greenpeace activists did while setting up their message.
Peruvian Deputy Culture Minister Luis Jamie Castillo told The Guardian that the action was “a true slap in the face at everything Peruvians consider sacred.”
“[The lines] are absolutely fragile,” Castillo continued. “They are black rocks on a white background. You walk there and the footprint is going to last hundreds or thousands of years…And the line that they have destroyed is the most visible and most recognized of all.”
The Peruvian government has said that it is looking into pressing charges against the organization. Reuters reports that it is also attempting to preventing the people involved in the action from leaving the country.
For its part, Greenpeace put out a statement apologizing for the damage its activists caused.
Without reservation Greenpeace apologizes to the people of Peru for the offense caused by our recent activity laying a message of hope at the site of the historic Nazca Lines. We are deeply sorry for this.
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.
Greenpeace International Executive Director Dr. Kumi Niadoo will be traveling to the Peruvian capital of Lima to apologize to the country’s authorities in person. The organization has said that it will cooperate with any independent review of its actions and has stopped using photos from the publicity stunt in its promotional materials.
Photo via bluelemur/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)