Activists from Greenpeace, an organization which is supposed to promote the protection of the environment and cultural heritage, caused irreversible damage to the historic Nazca Lines in Peru.
Ironically, what they did was meant to reach government representatives from different countries who are participating in a UN climate change conference held in Lima last week. In particular, the protestors laid down banners spelling out: “TIME FOR CHANGE! THE FUTURE IS RENEWABLE! GREENPEACE.” As a result, this act has damaged some of the ancient geoglyphs, as the activists’ footprints ruined the fragile soil of the site.
Now, instead of inspiring big changes, the Greenpeace protestors will be charged by the Peruvian government with damaging an archaeological site and are at risk of receiving a sentence of six years in prison.
For those who don’t know, the Nazca Lines are a system of geoglyphs that were created by native people more than 1,500 years ago in the Nazca desert. There are hundreds of perfectly symmetrical geoglyphs that depict human and animal silhouettes, shapes, and natural elements like trees and flowers, some of which reach about 300 meters (990 feet) in length.
What is most amazing about the Nazca Lines is that they can be seen only from the sky. How did the ancient people create the designs of this size, which endured for more than thousand years? The secret lies in the soil of the area, which is rich with the mineral called lime. This is what protected the designs from wind erosion for so many years. To create the designs, the Nazca people excavated 10-15 centimeters (4-6 inches) to remove the dark upper layer of soil and expose the light-colored subsoil.
Because of the unique character of this archeological monument, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, it is strictly forbidden to walk in the area without approval and special footwear, since footprints can leave a long-lasting impact and damage the designs.
However, it seems that it was not convincing enough for Greenpeace activists, who chose this historical site for their climate change protest, inflicting irreversible damage to the geoglyphs. To apologize for their actions, the organization wrote on Facebook:
“Without reservation, Greenpeace apologises 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.”
However, Luis Jaime Castillo, Peru’s minister for cultural heritage, responded to this so-called apology with: “We are not ready to accept apologies from anybody. Let them apologize after they repair the damage.”
“It was done in the middle of the night. They went ahead and stepped on our hummingbird, and looking at the pictures we can see there’s very severe damage. Nobody can go on these lines without permission — not even the president of Peru!” he emphasized.
What to say… It is ironic and sad at the same time how big international organizations’ declared goals can differ from their actions.
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