Geography in the news

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Wednesday 17th December 2014

Keywords

Greenpeace | Renewable energy | Peru | Protest

The students should read the BBC news article and watch the video concerning a recent Greenpeace protest in Peru.

Background

The 20th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol took place from 1 to 14 December in Lima, Peru. About 190 nations with 9,000 delegates met and agreed on the need to combat climate change in 2015.

There were however, warnings that far tougher action will be needed to cut rising world greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. Others have suggested that the agreement is a meaningless document. Samantha Smith, chief of climate policy for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), for example, criticised the vague and weak language of the agreement.

The environmental organisation, Greenpeace, reacted differently. Twenty activists from Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Spain, Germany, Italy and Austria unfurled a sign calling for renewable energy next to a giant hummingbird design, one of the huge drawings called the Nazca lines. The message, spelled out in yellow plastic letters, was timed to gain maximum attention during the climate conference.

The Nazca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru. They are a mysterious series of huge animal, imaginary human and plant symbols etched into the ground sometime between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500. The hummingbird design is one of the most famous and best preserved of the lines. The Nazca lines were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

The Peruvian government has protested strongly as the Greenpeace activists had made an unauthorized intrusion into the World Heritage site to place the sign. The president has called the Greenpeace actions a “lack of respect for our cultural patrimony and Peruvian laws” and the government has threatened extradition for the activists. The president has said it would seek charges for 'attacking archaeological monuments' – a crime punishable by up to six years in prison.

 

Suggested lesson ideas

  1. Students could be shown the image of the protest as a starter and asked to describe the geography in the image.
  1. The incident offers an excellent opportunity for role play or a heated discussion in class. One internet comment has been, ‘Organizations such as Greenpeace are little other than legalized terrorists and should be deemed as such and treated under law accordingly.’

In groups students could be asked to research the topics of

  • climate change
  • the Kyoto Protocol
  • the Lima conference
  • Greenpeace
  • the desert environment of southern Peru
  • and the Nazca lines.

Their research, possibly presented as a class PowerPoint would provide a useful background guide to the protest by the Greenpeace activists prior to a class discussion/debate.

  1. Greenpeace has since issued an apology for their damage to the Nazca lines. Students could be asked if such an apology was necessary, appropriate or should not have been made.

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