Greenpeace Apologizes for Wrecking Nazca Lines as Peru Prepares Criminal Charges

Greenpeace via ReutersGreenpeace wanted to catch the eyes of those in power with this sign. But it caught attention for the wrong reasons, by damaging one of Peru's most famous and precious archaeological sites.
Greenpeace via Reuters
Greenpeace wanted to catch the eyes of those in power with this sign. But it caught attention for the wrong reasons, by damaging one of Peru’s most famous and precious archaeological sites.


Indian Country Today Media Network


The glaring yellow letters, urging respect for the environment, proclaimed, “Time for Change! The Future is Renewable.”

However, the very respect being demanded for the planet was not accorded to the Nazca Lines, an ancient UNESCO Heritage Site in Peru, by Greenpeace workers who tromped all around and upon one of the phantasmagorical figures depicted on the sacred site in order to plant their message.

While the banner did catch eyes, it did not do so for the reasons the environmental activists had hoped. Now the Peruvian government plans to file criminal charges against the environmental group for its irreversible destruction of one section of a national treasure. The delicate drawings, etched into the desert on Peru’s coast between 2,000 and 1,500 years ago, depict phantasmagorical figures such as a spider and a hummingbird—sketches that are now indeed accompanied by footprints and even an imprint of the letter “C” from the word “Greenpeace.”

“It’s a true slap in the face at everything Peruvians consider sacred,” said the country’s deputy culture minister, Luis Jaime Castillo, to the Associated Press. “They are absolutely fragile. 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 idea, Greenpeace said in an initial apology that expressed sorrow at the Peruvian people’s upset rather than remorse at having damaged the ancient site, was to catch the eye of delegates flying over the area en route to climate talks in Lima. Greenpeace’s volunteers had been “absolutely careful to protect the Nazca Lines,” Greenpeace spokeswoman Tina Loeffelbein told BBC News. But a photo taken by a drone and published in The New York Timesclearly shows footprints and even an imprint of the letter C in the area near the hummingbird.


Drone image of damage to Nazca Lines by Greenpeace message (Photo: Peru Ministry of Culture, via The New York Times)
Drone image of damage to Nazca Lines by Greenpeace message (Photo: Peru Ministry of Culture, via The New York Times)


Castillo told the Timesthat about a dozen activists trudged more than a mile through the desert to the forbidden area to place the letters. Greenpeace’s very attempt to mitigate any damage—by walking single file—may have exacerbated the damage, according to Castillo’s description.

“A bad step, a heavy step, what it does is that it marks the ground forever,” he told The New York Times. “There is no known technique to restore it the way it was.”


Greenpeace workers lay out letters for environmental message in delicate, and therefore restricted, territory in the Peruvian desert, damaging the famed Nazca Lines. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press)
Greenpeace workers lay out letters for environmental message in delicate, and therefore restricted, territory in the Peruvian desert, damaging the famed Nazca Lines. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press)


Greenpeace has since released a second statement about the debacle.

“The decision to engage in this activity shows a complete disregard for the culture of Peru and the importance of protecting sacred sites everywhere. There is no apology sufficient enough to make up for this serious lack of judgment,” said Greenpeace U.S. Executive Director Annie Leonardon December 12. “I know my international colleagues who engaged in this activity did not do so with malice, but that doesn’t mitigate the result. It is a shame that all of Greenpeace must now bear.”

She acknowledged that the “Nazca Lines situation has undermined the trust of many allies and supporters that we have been working so hard to build” and promised to earn back that trust.

“I know it will take time and substantial effort to rebuild the trust we have lost, and I am committed to doing that,” Leonard said. “I am also committed to ensuring that those responsible are held accountable and that we put safeguards in place to ensure that nothing like this happens ever again.”

“We are not ready to accept apologies from anybody,” Castillo told The New York Times. “Let them apologize after they repair the damage.”



Ruth Buendía of Peru Wins 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize



By Monti Aguirre

Ruth Buendia and the Ene River
Photo courtesy of the Goldman Environmental Prize

Ruth braided quick steps over the edge of the long boat and jumped off onto the beach of the Ene River. Other Asháninka women and children also got off and climbed the high riverbank. We had stopped at Saborochari village to get food for the long river journey ahead. Delicious boiled manioc and smoked fish wrapped in plantain leaves were distributed to all on the boat. We went on to Pamakiari to attend the XIV Asháninka Congress.

This was early in 2010. It was my first time on the Ene River and my first time meeting Ruth Buendía Metzoquiari. Some months before, Ruth had sent me an email asking for support, after she had learned about plans to build the Pakitzapango Dam on the Ene River in the Peruvian Amazon. I went to meet Ruth and other representatives of the Central Asháninka del Rio Ene – Asháninka Center of the Ene River – (CARE) to better understand the threats posed by the dam. It was clear at this meeting that the Asháninka felt threatened by the construction of the dam.

The health of the Ene River is crucial for the Asháninka indigenous people who depend on its fish resources, the fertile soils of its floodplains, and the many foods and other natural resources the forest provides. The dam would block the passage of sediments and the migration of fish and other aquatic organisms. Pakitzapango Dam would also negatively impact the lives of close to 10,000 people.

Ruth Buendia speaks at the Central Asháninka del Rio Ene (CARE)
Photo courtesy of the Goldman Environmental Prize

Later that year, Ruth and CARE were successful in stopping the Pakitzapango Dam through a legal action presented by CARE. The Brazilian dam builder Odebrecht then announced that it was no longer interested in building the Tambo 40 Dam, another project proposed for the Ene, Tambo and Ucayali river basin. Both of these stalled dams represent a great victory for the people who worked so hard to protect their rivers and cultures.

Yesterday International Rivers was honored to welcome Ruth Buendía to the Bay Area – on her first trip to California – as part of a special Women Water Guardians gathering. Indigenous leaders from California welcomed Ruth, me, and an intimate group of local and international water guardians with songs for the waters of this place and the healing of the waters of the world.

Monti, Ruth and Jason after the Women Water Guardians ceremony in Mill Valley on April 27, 2014.Photo by Shaun Sakya/International Rivers
Monti, Ruth and Jason after the Women Water Guardians ceremony in Mill Valley on April 27, 2014.
Photo by Shaun Sakya/International Rivers

And today I’m overjoyed to announce that Ruth has been awarded the 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize for Central and South America for her work to protect the Ene River and stop the Pakitzapango and Tambo 40 dams. Working alongside her to protect the Asháninka people and the rivers of the Peruvian Amazon is a great honor. I’m able to continue along my path as a woman water guardian because of the strength and inspiration of women like Ruth. Felicidades hermana.

Quinoa Fever: Superfood’s Soaring Popularity is Killing South American Growers

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

The burgeoning global demand for quinoa may be negatively impacting the people who grow it, reports columnist Joanna Blythman for The Guardian.

Until recently, the ancient seed was primarily eaten by the rural poor of Bolivia and Peru. Now the superfood indigenous to the Andes mountain range of South America is showing up in restaurants and grocery stories across the U.S. and in recipes all over the web. It is commonly recommended as a compliment to fish or lamb, or to bolster the heartiness of a fresh salad or pan-seared greens.

Indian Country Today Media Network’s food columnist Dale Carson, Abenaki, has likewise written about the healthy pasta substitute—rich in iron, protein, fiber, potassium, zinc and essential amino acids.

“[T]he Inca called quinoa chisa mama, ‘mother of all grain…,’” she writes, offering recipe suggestions for quinoa and beans, as well as a quinoa salad with avocado.

But this sudden championing of quinoa has its drawbacks. The price is soaring, and the Peruvians and Bolivians who have subsisted on it for centuries can no longer afford it.

The New York Times reported in 2011 that increased demand for quinoa had driven up the price three-fold in the past five years. Meanwhile, Bolivia’s consumption fell by 34 percent over the same period.

Costs have shot so high that now in Bolivia and Peru, “imported junk food is cheaper,” writes Blythman. “In Lima, quinoa now costs more than chicken.” And even more devastating, climbing quinoa prices have been blamed for a rise in malnutrition among children in quinoa-growing regions.

There’s no denying the seed is nutritious and widely touted. The United Nations even declared 2013 the Year of Quinoa, and Bolivia’s President Evo Morales attended the U.N. ceremony on February 20.

But given its ability to cripple food security among South America’s poor, enthusiasm for the seed “looks increasingly misplaced,” Blythman writes.

On the flipside, capitalism buffs like Doug Saunders of the Globe and Mail have contended the economic boost from quinoa exports is reviving the impoverished communities of Bolivia and Peru.

And Edouard Rollet, co-founder and president of Alter Eco—a company that has spearheaded the fair trade and organic quinoa markets—proposes another perspective. The issue at hand, he says, is not whether or not to develop the quinoa market—it is how it is done:

“Giving the poorest of the poor in Latin America—farmers that grow quinoa—access to income or ‘protecting’ this region from globalization, is a false choice,” he said in a recent conference call, reported Mother Nature Network’s Sami Grover. “It’s up to everyone involved, especially companies, to determine if they will operate in a way that fairly benefits those at quinoa’s origin—or if they will operate business as usual.”