Greenpeace Picks Up the Pieces of Advocacy Blunder in Peru

EspañolGreenpeace tactics have ignited a firestorm of controversy during the UN Sustainable Innovation Forum 2014. While the climate-change summit proceeded from December 1 to 12 in Lima, Peru, a group of activists broke into a protected World Heritage area and one of the country’s sacred Nazca Lines.

The Spark to the Flame

The Nazca Lines, located on the valley of Nazca, in the department of Ica, Peru. (Go2Peru)
The Nazca Lines, located on the valley of Nazca, in the department of Ica, 450km to the south of Lima. (Go2Peru)

On Monday, December 8, a group of 12 activists from the environmental-advocacy organization Greenpeace entered Nazca in the middle of the night. They did so without authorization nor the proper equipment, and they proceeded to place a sign to promote renewable energy — hoping to garner the attention of the world leaders gathered in the United Nations summit.

The sign, located on white sand next to an ancient hummingbird geoglyph and made of yellow cloth letters, stated: “Time for change! The future is renewable. Greenpeace.” Ground and aerial images of the stunt soon spread through social networks.

“With our message from the Nazca lines, we expect politicians to understand the legacy we need to leave for future generations,” declared Mauro Fernández, one of the activists who participated in the protest, in a video release.

Indignation in Peru

Denunciation of Greenpeace’s action by the Peruvian authorities was immediate, as they made their deep concern known to Magaly Robalino, the Unesco representative in Peru. The Ministry of Culture filed a complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office in Nazca, to impede the group of environmentalists from leaving the country. However, they had already departed.

Diana Álvarez Calderón, Peruvian culture minister, stated that the activists mistreated a place that was intact and that “all Peruvians had been disrespected.”

President Ollanta Humala also expressed his regret, as he said that the cultural heritage of the country had been trampled on by the Greenpeace activists: “We must simply spread the word, alert the world … Watch out for the Taj Mahal, watch out at the pyramids in Egypt, because we all face the threat that Greenpeace could attack any of humanity’s historical heritage.”

The negative response from civil society was also visible. Ana María Cogorno, head of the Maria Reiche Association — a nonprofit dedicated to protecting and conserving the lines and geoglyphs in the Department of Ica — explained to a local TV network, Latin Frequency, that the harm done in Nazca is irreparable. The geographical area is a seabed; therefore, anything that occurs on the ground leaves a mark that never goes away.

Greenpeace’s Remorse

A couple of days after the incident, Greenpeace released a public apology for the Nazca Lines protest.

“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.

#Greenpeace apologizes unreservedly about the protest held on the #Nazca lines.

Kumi Niadoo, Greenpeace’s international executive director, arrived in Lima on Thursday to offer his apology on behalf of the organization. During an interview he added, “I fully accept that an apology is not enough.… Internally in Greenpeace, I am committed to having a fast investigation to understand who took the decision, how the decision was taken and to hold the people responsible accountable.”

Nonetheless, the Peruvian authorities have expressed clearly that they will seek criminal proceedings against those who committed the offense.

Niadoo is set to meet today with the authorities of the Ministry of Culture to offer the organizations’ support and seek alternatives to cooperate with the restoration of the affected UN World Heritage.

Fergus Hodgson contributed to this article.

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