Wisdom is to live in the present, plan for the future and profit from the past. — unknown

Greenpeace’s controversial message “Time for Change! The Future is Renewable,” which they conveyed to the world in large cloth letters posted at the Hummingbird geoglyph of the Nazcas in Peru draws more criticism than acclaim. The Nazca Lines are a protected area and an unauthorized invasion purely to garner media attention without thought to the environment and sentiments of those who hold the area sacred, was unwarranted. 

But the message is more poignant to Peru than most people realize. Peru, as we know it today, has seen many civilizations rise and fall, and the desert culture of the Nazca was among these – one of the most enigmatic civilizations ever to exist in human history. Who were these people, and how did their civilization die out so completely that these shallow trails that run through the arid desert soil are the only traces left of their existence?

The Nazca often fade into oblivion next to the publicity generated by their Inca, Mayan and Aztec compatriots, but their legacy shows that their approach to science and consciousness was superior to that of the Incas (who they preceded and who had no written language and only used an intricate series of knots to help them maintain their records). They were also far advanced in medicine and had mastered the art of cranial surgery to alleviate pressure on the skull from injury or illness.

An agricultural community, scientists and archaeologists have argued that the Nazca lines may have functioned as sophisticated irrigation system in the desert region for the Nazca to grow their crops. Yet others believe that the Nazca lines have an astronomical significance particularly since the sun seems to hover dramatically over the Great Spider geoglyph during the Winter Solstice, before starting its journey back North. Some believe that there was a marked spiritual meaning and that they manifested as a tribute to the gods when they looked down upon the land.

While many feel that the Nazca culture emerged out of the pre-existing Paracas people, other theories belie that they came as a result of migrations over land and sea from Asia. But was the reason for their appearance somehow related to the demise of their civilization? The general belief is that in their bid to settle in the desert they had cut down the sparse foliage that existed to make way for agriculture, and that an unexpected flash flood wiped out the entire civilization – but then the question we must ask is how the Nazca Lines survived so long without falling victim to weathering?

And returning to Greenpeace’s message – as climate changes occur and we urgently seek out renewable sources of energy, is our depletion of the earth’s natural resources yet one more cycle of natural selection in the universe’s evolution as communities and cultures around the globe destroy one another, or should we draw on the energies of our ancestors and deploy their wisdom to save our planet?

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