Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
Greenpeace activists have no respect for what others hold sacred – whether it’s Peru’s Nazca lines or a Roman Catholic cross in Canada.
Activism is about persuasion. It’s about using moral arguments to change people’s minds which, in turn, changes the world.
For moral arguments to be successful, we need to already inhabit the same approximate moral universe. Some things are sacred. The ends don’t justify the means. This isn’t rocket science, but apparently it’s news to Greenpeace.
In Peru, where a UN climate summit is currently taking place, the Ministry of Culture says Greenpeace activists have desecrated an important cultural monument.
The Nazca Lines are a collection of approximately 300 figures etched into the Peruvian desert more than 1,500 years ago. In the words of vice-minister Luis Jaime Castillo, an archeologist by training, the figures
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.
It is illegal for anyone – including heads of state – to visit the site without permission or special footwear. To Greenpeace, however, the Nazca Lines are just another place to protest.
Earlier this week, 20 of its personnel entered the restricted area and laid down 44 huge fabric characters spelling out the message: TIME FOR CHANGE! THE FUTURE IS RENEWABLE. GREENPEACE.
The photo at the top of this post, a screengrab from the BBC’s website, suggests the prodigious scale of their intrusion. Castillo characterizes these actions as “a true slap in the face at everything Peruvians consider sacred.”
But this is normal Greenpeace behaviour. In March, the group desecrated an overtly religious symbol in the heart of Montreal, Canada. The Mount Royal Cross, erected in 1924, is 30 meters (nearly 100 feet) tall. Normally illuminated at night with white lights, whenever a pope dies, the lights change to purple.
To Greenpeace, however, the cross was simply a plaything – a prop to be cavalierly defaced. Here’s what that religious icon looked like when they got through with it:
If you want to persuade people of the righteousness of your cause it’s a bad idea to defile their sacred spaces. Why is this so difficult for Greenpeace to understand?
read the Peruvian Culture Ministry press release here
see some lovely Mont Royal Cross photos by Martin New here