Pro tip: If you want to be taken seriously when you are delivering an important protest against the destruction of the Earth, it’s best to not desecrate a World Heritage Site in the process.
While this advice could probably be categorized under “logic for five year olds,” it has apparently eluded the folks at Greenpeace. Protestors from the group inflicted irreversible damage to the Nazca Lines in Peru when they laid out banners ironically decrying the destruction of the environment.
The message was meant to target delegates currently attending the UN climate summit in Lima, inspiring them to enact big changes. Instead, the Peruvian government is seeking to file criminal charges against the Greenpeace protestors for damaging an archeological monument, which could carry a sentence of six years in prison.
Why is this such a big deal? The Nazca Lines are a collection of hundreds of geoglyphs that were made by indigenous people over 1,500 years ago in the Pampas of Jumana in the Nazca desert. The designs include animals, people, shapes, and natural elements like flowers. Some of these designs are quite large, stretching 300 meters (990 feet) long. They were designed with little more than rope and wooden stakes and can only be viewed in their entirety from above, such as from the nearby foothills.
In order to make the lines, the Nazca people excavated 10-15 centimeters (4-6 inches) of reddish stone from the ground, revealing the light-colored soil underneath. The soil has a large amount of lime, which hardens and protects the lines from wind erosion. However, the properties of the ground which has allowed these glyphs to endure for over a millennium are why nobody—not even presidents or diplomats—are permitted to walk near the sites without approval and specialized footwear, as footprints can leave marks that will also endure over time. The area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 in order to preserve the images.
Not giving a damn about all of that, the members of Greenpeace willfully trespassed on the famous hummingbird structure in order to lay out their banners which read: "Time for Change! The Future is Renewable.” Though BBC reports a Greenpeace spokesperson said the protestors were careful not to step on the lines themselves, they have damaged the area surrounding it. This is kind of like using permanent marker to write your name on the Mona Lisa and saying, “It’s okay! At least I didn’t write on her face!”
When the backlash hit, Greenpeace issued this non-apology in response:
Rather than apologizing for the damage they caused, they were merely sorry that some people didn’t like it. BBC also states that Greenpeace declined to comment on if they will be turning over the names of the protestors, as the Peruvian government insists. Kumi Niadoo, the executive director of Greenpeace, is planning to go to Peru and apologize in person.
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