Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Greenpeace Really Screws Up...Twice

Source: Greenpeace via Reuters
It's hard to imagine a more moronic act by a supposedly respectable environmental organization. I have appreciated the activism of Greenpeace in the past, especially the efforts of the Rainbow Warrior (all three of them) to stop whaling and nuclear testing. But this was stupid. And they made it worse in the aftermath.

Greenpeace has stood for action to save endangered species and habitats, sometimes putting lives on the line to protect them. It is sometimes the only weapon we have in the face of big money, overly powerful corporations, and corrupt governments. But there are two principles about civil disobedience: it should be directed at the right people and organizations, and those who truly believe in their actions should be ready to accept the consequences. This is what made this action so hard to understand.

Activists went into a restricted part of one of Peru's most treasured archaeological sites and unfurled long banners with their so-called message. The Nazca Lines are a World Heritage Site, and are fragile. They are geoglyphs, symbols and pictures dating back more than a thousand years, including birds, fish, llamas, jaguars, monkeys, and human figures. They were made by turning over stones darkened by desert varnish to expose the lighter surfaces underneath.
(Photo: Peru Ministry of Culture, via The New York Times)
It would be one thing if Greenpeace were throwing their bodies into the path of bulldozers trying to destroy the lines, but the Nazca Lines were not in any such danger. They had nothing to do with the Greenpeace protest whatsoever. Instead, the protesters trampled the ground, overturning varnished rocks, driving many of them into the sand. This kind of surface is highly vulnerable to such disruption. It is possible that the underlying sediments will now be mobilized in the next windstorm, blowing sand across and damaging the lines themselves. So that was stupid mistake number one.

Mistake two: when faced with the controversy, Greenpeace responded with one of the most mealy-mouthed apologies I've ever seen. Here is the first paragraph:
"Without reservation Greenpeace apologises to the people of Peru for the offence caused by our recent activity laying a message of hope at the site of the historic Nazca Lines. We are deeply sorry for this."
The problem? No apology for the destruction and damage to a priceless world heritage site, just an "I'm sorry to anyone we offended". These are the kind of words used by politicians who've been caught at KKK meetings and with hookers (or both). A non-apology apology. They hardly acknowledged that they did any damage.

What should be happening? Those responsible should come forth and accept the punishment due them. Should they be jailed? I don't know. At the very least, they should be on hands and knees replacing every stone they overturned. And Greenpeace International? They've severely damaged their reputation and should be doing a lot more than offering half-hearted apologies that say "we know this looks bad" (it really says that). It doesn't "look" bad, it is bad, and there should be a full-scale effort on the part of the organization to fix what they did, not just say words about it. 


Celia Lewis said...

Ditto. I gasped when I saw this - it was so outrageous, so incredibly asinine, to cause destruction to put up an advertisement! :( For shame, Greenpeace

Hollis said...

I'm so tired of people doing the wrong thing in the name of the environment. Sometimes it's a poor decision on what to fight for, and sometimes it's extremely stupid ... like this. But in any case, it undermines the efforts of the rest of us, especially in places like Wyoming. Our credibility has been seriously damaged after years of such behavior. (vent vent vent ... thanks for the post)