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What Greenpeace's Insensitive Action Means for Climate Justice
What Greenpeace's Insensitive Action Means for Climate Justice
By Sasha /
Dec 16, 2014

If you haven’t been living in a cave, you have heard that Greenpeace stenciled a message at the Nazca Lines, one of the world’s most historic cultural sites, last week.

After unfurling canvass saying “TIME FOR CHANGE! The Future Is Renewable” in yellow at an ancient, sacred petroglyph depicting a hummingbird, Greenpeace made sure to scrawl their traditional logo below the message, ensuring that there could be no mistaking its authors. (To be clear: there was damage done at the site through inadvertent movement of the dark rocks that make up the crust of the desert by the activists walking out to put down the fabric.)

When an outcry emerged from Peru’s national government, Greenpeace immediately apologized, stating that their message had been misunderstood. It’s hard to say “misunderstood” when it looks like somebody gave 4Chan the keys to the warehouse.

Their spokesperson explained, “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.

“Rather than relay an urgent message of hope and possibility to the leaders gathering at the Lima UN climate talks, we came across as careless and crass.”

Defacing a sacred site that marks deep historical and cultural importance to the country is typically not something that comes across as hopeful and full of possibilities. In fact, it seems like Greenpeace trying to grab attention for all the wrong reasons in an effort worthy of PETA’s “insult and offend everyone, and see what happens” media philosophy.

Even further, the message, “the future is renewable,” written next to a site carved by Indigenous peoples may have intended to present a kind of “primitivist,” “anti-civ” message, but it also sends a mixed message by putting an off-color stamp on modern systems of industrial renewable energy that are often environmentally destructive (also herehere, and here). While renewable energy can be done in a way that is not destructive and that shares power, as theIWW’s Climate Caucus has exposed, Greenpeace does not seem particularly captivated by those discussions.

Recall when Greenpeace praised Apple this April for switching to renewables, apparently insensitive to Apple’s ongoing exploitation of sweatshop labor and destructive rare earths mining—then consider that rare earths are an important material for industrial renewable energy. They also tipped their hat to Facebook and Google for the same thing, ignoring completely the immense environmental and human rights problems of both groups, such as supporting the Keystone XL, having questionable ties to the NSA (also here) and promoting misogynyand transphobia.

Greenpeace’s enthusiastic embracing of Silicon Valley, perhaps the leading den of libertarian capitalist accumulation in the world, suggests that their mark on a World Heritage Site, which looks more like a “TENANT PARKING ONLY” stencil on a parking garage floor than a protest sign, represents a smug and belittling towards Indigenous peoples by a group so out of touch with the nature of its cause that it had no qualms flying international program director Pascal Husting into Amsterdam from Luxembourg several times a month.

It appears that what Greenpeace’s major snafu projects to the world is an overcoming or transformation of Indigenous identity through modern “green energy.” This might seem smart to Mr. Husting while on a commuter flight to Amsterdam, but for Indigenous peoples who are calling for greater respect for tradition, cultural understanding, and close-to-the-earth ways of life, it is supremely disrespectful.

Solidarity does not mean parachuting in to a global climate summit in the Global South, and marking up ancestral sites with the logo of an international NGO. It means working with people to further alternative networks of justice and resilience. That also doesn’t mean looking to a future of windmills made from copper mined from cyanide-leach, open-pit mines. And perhaps this is the greatest problem with Greenpeace’s message—the point of the crisis.

Environmentalism that favors “renewable energy” made from non-renewable practices is a huge the problem for and in the mostly-white environmental movement. Just like Greenpeace’s support for Silicon Valley, their support for renewables doesn’t appreciate the displacement of Indigenous peoples caused by the devastation from the mining of copper and rare earths, or the pollution from manufacturing solar cells.

Rather than boosting renewables and techno-fixes of the cyber-world, Greenpeace ought to return to what they do best: the grassroots solidarity work with Indigenous peoples and small farmers that have brought about great results.

If anything, the big failure of Greenpeace’s message is that it has given the mainstream media a way of driving a wedge between local organizers and the institutional international movement, which is often comprised of alienating and hierarchical NGOs. Greenpeace has done much good, and Peru’s own record should show that there is clearly more to this case than Greenpeace-bashing presented in the mainstream media.

Since massacring Indigenous people in the Amazon in 2009, Peru has taken up a fully extractionist agenda comprised of industrial impunity and the assassination of environmentalists. The specter of newspapers supported and financed by the same people doing the mining that is putting false solutions to climate change on the map and in the conference room growing indignant about a cultural site that Greenpeace got to deface before they were able to dig a copper mine into it is laughable.

At the same time, we should all care about these sites in a very real way, and that means solidarity with people all over the world. For this type of solidarity, see the below message of the Cumbre de los Pueblos; what they demand and what they need are the real things that people of the Global North should heed before becoming involved in the just struggle for a better world.

The Protest Movement in Peru: Strengthening Sustainable Production and Local Economies, Protecting the Environment

Pronouncement of the Cumbre de los Pueblos


Translated from Original document by Lynda Sullivan, Celendín / Center for Research on Globalization

From 23rd to 25th October social leaders, men and women, rural and urban ronderos*, environmental defense fronts, representatives of indigenous communities, peasant organizations, activists and authorities from across the country gathered together in Celendin to analyze the impacts of extractive capitalism and climate change in our territories and to strengthen our resistance and proposals in the face of these threats.

We consider that climate change is the most visible demonstration of the violence and damage generated by the extractive, patriarchal, capitalist model that has assaulted Mother Earth, violating in a systematic way our individual and collective rights, generating social inequalities and enormous discriminations, jeopardizing the future of humanity and aggravating the risks to our health. Therefore, the only viable answer to climate change is to change the core of this system.

In Peru, betraying its promises, the government of Ollanta Humala is deepening its policies of robbing our territories, promoting exploitation of our common goods and natural resources without limits, and deepening the criminalization of the protest and repression. The latest reforms proposed in Minister Castilla’s anti-environmental mega-package dismantle the little environmental regulation and territorial protection that had managed to advance in the country.

In the face of this, we set forth:

The urgent need to strengthen and encourage ´buen vivir´ for our communities in Peru, by means of strengthening sustainable production, local economies, and associations as alternatives to extractivism, in addition to the care of common goods, in order to face up to climate change and to forge a truly fair and democratic society. For this it is necessary to continue defending Mother Earth, our territories and our right to health so that we, the communities, be the ones that decide our destiny, and so that we can recover the harmony between the economy, society and nature. For this, we stand firm in our definite rejection of the extractive and hydroelectric projects that expand in a chaotic and violent manner in our territories.

It is essential to reform our political system and laws which currently back this economic model. One of the hardest and most difficult manifestations of this model is the criminalization of the protest and the repression by the state-owned forces put at the service of the companies, which has cost the lives of dozens of people and has permitted the judicial harassment of hundreds of social leaders and the imprisoning of many of them, as has occurred with our Awajun and Wampis brothers who defended the Amazon and the communities who defend our water. It is time to recover our democracy, so that our rights as communities and citizens are respected.

Even though we recognize the advances of our struggles, in terms of proposals, collective decisions and, in territories like Cajamarca, forging legitimate political representation, we also recognize that there is still much to do to strengthen our organizations at a local, regional and national level. For this we believe it is important to advance in strategies of articulation between our struggles, so that our local resistances and the self-determination of our territories, may join forces to transform the country.


For this we agree:

  • We ratify the agreements of the first international encounter of the Guardians of the Lagoons, which took place in El Tambo, Bambamarca-Hualgayoc, on the days of 4th, 5th and 6th August 2014 and we commit ourselves to the fulfillment of its agreements;
  • We ratify our commitment to the defense of life, of our territories and of Mother Earth, with the construction of ´buen vivir´ for our communities, and a fair and sustainable developmental model of our own. Consequently, we ratify our decision not to permit the carrying out of extractive projects (mining, hydrocarbons, megadams and others) that threaten our security in the areas of health, environment and food sovereignty;
  • We reaffirm our identity and rights as indigenous peoples, as peasant communities, as rural and urban ronderos, as Quechuan, Aymaras and Amazonian communities, with the right to autonomy and our own jurisdiction, and with the right to determine our way of life through the consuetudinary right and buen vivir (tajimat tarimat pujut; Sumaq kausay; Sumaq qamaña).
  • We show solidarity and support for the struggle of Cajamarca against the mining activity, likewise, with the 52 defendants for Baguazo* and with Gregorio Santos Guerrero who is unjustly detained.
  • We call for the organization of and participation in the Great National March of the Communities for Environmental and Climate Justice and the Protection and Liberation of the Defenders of Mother Earth where we will march to Lima in order to take part in the People’s Summit and demand the change of the system for climate, ecological and social justice. We will depart on 7th December from the lagoons of Conga to arrive in Lima on 10th December, convoking all communities on the way;
  • We call on all the regions of the country to take part in this great united and vindicating march, departing from their regions to gather together in Lima. We also invite the citizens of the world so that they actively take part in the Great National March of Communities;
  • We convoke the construction of a network or coordinator of the social struggles to confront extractivism in the country which will allow the convergence of Andean, Amazonian and coastal communities and movements. For this we have formed an organizing committee, that will encourage the process of construction of this horizontal, plural and democratic space;
  • We convoke the new local, provincial and regional authorities aligned to the country´s social movements, to govern from and with the communities, this implies the construction of mechanisms of participation, consultation, accountability and definition of strategies shared between the authorities and social organizations for good government and the construction of control mechanisms to avoid corruption;
  • We commit ourselves to the fostering and strengthening of producer associations, on the basis of a fair economy and one of solidarity – the alternative to extractive activities, it should be formalized and in line with the Land-Use Planning Order*, for the productive diversification and the promotion of family and communal agriculture, agroforestry and other productive activities, with ecological handling and in harmony with Mother Earth;
  • We recognize the fundamental participation of women in social organizations and in the construction of the ways of life that we want, and also in response to the huge consequences that extractivist, racist, patriarchal and sexist capitalism has brought to our lives. For this, we consider fundamental the promotion of the participation and leadership of women – in conditions of parity in all political spaces, as we recognize their contribution to the economy, politics, and culture and their role in the care of life and food sovereignty.
  • Finally we propose to recognize and protect the rights of women to live without violence caused by social-environmental conflicts and the expansion of the extractivist developmental model, which leads to sexual harassment, sexual violence, labor exploitation, contamination, criminalization of the protest, femicide, among others.
  • We vindicate and commemorate our wounded and our martyrs that fought for the defense of life, water and land.
  • We show solidarity with the struggles of the communities of the world in defense of Mother Earth, land, water and life;

We demand…

  • That the national and international authorities recognize that climate change is a symptom of the crisis which has been imposed by those with power on society and the world economy, provoking the destruction of nature and the commercialization of life. Therefore the only viable answer to change it is to put an end to this extractivist, predatory and ethnocidic capitalism in order to restore equilibrium with Mother Earth and to generate a fair and sustainable way of life;
  • The immediate annulment of the laws of the anti-environmental, tributary and territorial package, (Law No. 30230) and the laws of criminalization of the protest and impunity that act against nature, human rights and democracy;
  • The modification of the Law of Previous Consultation in concordance with the Agreement 169 of the International Labour Organization, subscribed to by the Peruvian state, so that it truly enables the self-determination of communities; as well as the modification of the National System of Public Investment so that it allows the promotion of family and communal agriculture and other sustainable productive activities.
  • The approval of the proposals of law for the protection of the heads of water basins and fragile ecosystems, for the prohibition of the use of cyanide and mercury, and the human right to water, put forward in the National March for Water in 2012, as well as the proposal of law of the Platform of Land-Use Planning*, and the proposal of law framed to confront climate change by the Cumbre de los Pueblos (People’s Summit);
  • A cessation of violence, criminalization and every kind of persecution or stigmatization of our brothers and sisters who fight for our social and environmental, individual and collective rights in our territories. That the hundreds affected by the repression at the hands of the forces of order of the state, put at the service of big business, see justice served and are compensated;
  • Immediate freedom for the defenders of Mother Earth, life and of the rights of communities, unjustly on trial or imprisoned across the whole country.
  • Respect for the will of communities, clearly expressed in public demonstrations, assemblies, elections and local or communal democratic consultations against the presence of extractive projects in our territories;
  • Fulfillment of the agreements and commitments assumed by the government in the processes of tables of dialogue implemented in different parts of the country, such as in Espinar, Moquegua, Arequipa and others.
  • Revision of the gas duct project by Sur Peruano, giving priority to national concerns and assuring that the primary beneficiaries are the communities who own the gas and not the transnational corporations;
  • Cessation of the expansion of extractive activities in the country and, moreover, that those companies which have operated or that operate at present and have caused environmental and social damages, are obliged to make economic, social and environmental reparations to the affected towns and communities.
  • We demand of the District Attorney and of Congress the creation of a commission of investigation and sanction for tax evasion, specifically the tax evasion of the Yanacocha mining company.
  • That local, regional and national governments guide the municipal and regional public investment to encourage associations and the improvement of diversified production for a fair economy based on solidarity, generating productive links that allow the strengthening of the development of the internal market, assuring food sovereignty. They should also encourage policies of defense and protection of water resources and cultural heritage, support to sustainable family and communal agriculture and cattle raising, local and ecotourism, renewable energies, conservation, recuperation and sustainable use of biodiversity, respecting the multiculturalism of the country;
  • The carrying out of hydraulic inventories, processes of participatory land-use planning, policies of environmental management and protection, and a genuine policy of consultation and referendums so that communities can make decisions about our territories and defend our right to ´buen vivir´;

We propose the strengthening of processes of decentralization to tackle the concentration of power and the political and economic decisions made by the ´elite´. We will work for the re-foundation of the politics of the country and for the surging of a new institutionalism of the state, decolonizing and breaking down the manifestations of patriarchy in all social, political and cultural connections, seeking harmony with Mother Earth and between communities.


- Central de Apicultores del Nororiente del Marañón, Jaén y San Ignacio
- Asociación Manantiales
- Asociación de Mujeres en Defensa de la Vida, Cajamarca
- Asociación de Mujeres Protectoras Páramos, Piura
- Abogada de Municipalidad Provincial San Pablo
- Apu Media, Cajamarca
- ASPEM, Italia
- Caminata por las Huacas
- Catapa, Belgica
- Central Femenina de Rondas Campesinas, Bambamarca
- Chyala
- Colectivo Tomate, Lima
- Comunidad Campesina Calispuquio, Cajamarca
- Comunidad Campesina Tapayrihua, Apurimac
- Comundad campesina Suyto orco, San Miguel
- Coordinadora Nacional por los Derechos Humanos, Nacional
- COREJU, Cajamarca
- CPPAW, Amazonas
- Derechos Humanos Sin Fronteras, Cuzco
- Francia America Latina, Francia
- Frente de Defensa Ambiental de Cajamarca, Cajamarca
- Frente de Defensa Cuenca del Rio Jadibamba, Celendín
- Frente de Defensa El Tambo, Hualgayoc-Bambamarca
- Frente de Defensa Río Marañón, Chumuch – Celendín
- Global Campaign, Demand Climate Justice, Irlanda
- GRUFIDES, Cajamarca
- Hazlo Pirata, Lima
- IIDS / IILS, Lima
- Ingeniería Sin Fronteras, Cajamarca
- Justicia Global, Brasil
- Mal de Ojo, Lima
- Manthoc, Cajamarca
- Marcha Mundial de Mujeres
- Mesa de Concertacion para la Lucha Contra la Pobreza
- Mesa Dialogo Ambiental, Junín
- MOCICC, Lima
- Oficina Asuntos Indígenas, Jaén
- ORFAC, San Ignacio
- Organización Miraflores y San Juan de la Quinua, Celendín
- PDTG, Lima
- Plataforma Interinstitucional Celendina, Celendín
- Propuesta Ciudadana, Lima
- Red de Salud, Celendín
- Red Muqui Centro, Norte y Sur
- RENAMA, Cajamarca
- REPRODEMUC, Cajamarca
- Ronda Campesina Distrital Huarango
- Ronda Campesina San Ignacio
- Ronda Campesina Distrital San José de Lourdes
- Ronda Campesina Distrital Sorochuco
- Ronda Campesina Distrital Yagen
- Servicios Educativos Rurales (SER), Cajamarca
- Universidad Nacional de Cajamarca
- Urgencia Ambiental, Celendín
- Asociación Vida Sana, Bambamarca
- Vicaría del Medio Ambiente (VIMA), Jaén


*Buen Viver: roughly translated as ´Living Well´
*ronderos: autonomous social justice organization – Rondas Campesinos (Peasant Rounds) and now includes Rondas Urbanos (Urban Rounds)
*Baguazo: referring to the events which occurred in Bagua in 2009
*Land-Use Planning Order: Ordenamiento Territorial
*Platform of Land-Use Planning: Plataforma de Ordenamiento Territorial

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What Greenpeace's Insensitive Action Means for Climate Justice