With the governments of Peru and India hitting back against both foreign and domestic members of Greenpeace, the U.S.-based activist group is starting to receive major pushback from its anti-energy protest activities.
Greenpeace receives arguably more attention from law enforcement authorities than any other environmental group. The organization’s activists and leaders have been arrested at public relations stunts, illegal break-ins, and protests—activities Greenpeace calls civil disobedience—at nuclear power plants, hydroelectric dams, coal-fired power plants, and a host of other locations, including national, regional, and state capitols. These actions frequently garner favorable media attention and public praise from celebrities and politicians.
However, recent actions in Peru and ongoing activities in India have put Greenpeace on the defensive.
Damaged a Historic Site
In Peru during the UN’s annual climate change conference on December 1-14, than 20 Greenpeace activists walked out onto Peru’s Nazca Lines, a world heritage site, in the middle of the night. They laid big yellow cloth letters reading, “Time for change; the future is renewable.”
The activists’ goal was to put pressure on negotiators at the summit to adopt a significant international climate change agreement. The Nazca Lines are huge depictions of creatures and plants scratched on the surface of the ground between 1,500 and 2,000 years ago. Because the Nazca Lines are fragile and footprints can last hundreds of years, not even heads of state are allowed to walk there without special authorization and only when wearing special shoes. Greenpeace’s action damaged the lines and 20 activists were arrested, facing criminal charges for damaging the site.
Climate analysts sharply criticized Greenpeace’s Peruvian PR stunt. Craig Rucker, executive director of the environmental public interest group, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, said, “We confronted Greenpeace publicly about the cultural insensitivity of their use of Machu Picchu and Nazca Lines to make a political statement on global warming at one of their press conferences during the COP climate meeting in Lima. They indicated publicly at that time the locals totally supported their use of these sites for this purpose—something we knew to be in contrast to the locals we spoke to in the country.
After we released a video of this dialogue, it garnered a lot of attention from the media and angered a lot of people in the country. “It was interesting to see Greenpeace do an ‘about-face’ publicly on the wisdom of its stunts, going from “everyone loved us” to “OMG we’re so sorry!” in 24 hours,” Rucker added. “Clearly the group is run by such hardcore climate ideologues that nothing is sacred in pursuit of the cause, even if it means desecrating the cultural and historic landmarks of indigenous people.”
Though Greenpeace apologized profusely for the action and promised to cooperate with authorities, most participants slipped out of Peru, back to their home countries, upon being released from jail pending trial. Those fleeing justice included the designers and leaders of the damaging stunt, who were based in Germany.
Greeenpeace ‘A Potential Threat’
India subsequently cracked down on Greenpeace and other U.S.-based environmental groups engaging in anti-energy climate activities.
An Indian intelligence bureau report stated Greenpeace is “a potential threat to national economic security.” The intelligence bureau calculated the organization’s activities cost the country between 2 and 3 percent of its GDP each year.
In response, India’s government restricted the international travel of domestic Greenpeace activists and blocked their access to foreign funding.
Myron Ebell, director of global warming and international environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said Greenpeace’s actions in Peru and other nations show a lack of concern for other people, especially the poor, “The publicity stunt that resulted in irreparable damage to the Nazca Lines, one of Peru’s most treasured ancient monuments, is typical of Greenpeace. They have little concern for the human environment or the interests of people. They think they can get away with anything because they announce their intentions are pure. In reality, they are eco-imperialists who think their ideology trumps the interests and hopes of poor people in poor countries.”