At approximately 10:30 AM Mountain Time, Greenpeace activists unfurled a banner at one of America’s most iconic landmarks with a message that reads, “America honors leaders not politicians: Stop Global Warming.” The banner, measuring sixty-five feet by thirty-five feet, features an unfinished portrait of President Obama.
The demonstration comes as President Obama meets other G8 leaders in L’Aquila, Italy today to discuss the global warming crisis in the lead-up to UN climate treaty talks in Copenhagen this December.
High winds made the unfurling of the banner especially difficult, but climbers were able to secure the banner despite the winds and pressure from fast-approaching National Park Police climbers. In a piece of twenty-first century political theater, Greenpeace also tweeted from atop the famous rock face and streamed the live video feed of the action at their website, providing color and play-by-play analysis from their communications team in D.C. and activists on the ground.
To bring attention the issue, 11 activists completed a challenging climb to the top of Mount Rushmore, and three rappelled down, hanging the nearly 2300-square-foot banner as they descended.
It was not entirely clear how the activists so easily evaded the security perimeter in the early morning hours on Wednesday, but according to Greenpeace, the highly-trained climbers took special care not to damage the monument, using existing anchors placed by the National Park Service for periodic cleanings.
“When you have individuals who are determined, who are equipped, who are organized, who are willing to do damage to government property, there’s not many systems that are fail-safe to that,” Nav Sing, spokesman for the Mt. Rushmore National Memorial told the Rapid City Journal.
The demonstration in South Dakota follows a series of protests in Italy this morning where other Greenpeace activists hung banners on smokestacks of the dirtiest coal-fired power plant in Italy, calling attention to the collective failure of leadership on global warming at the G8.
“This monument celebrates leaders who rose to the great challenges of our past,” said Greenpeace USA Deputy Campaigns Director Carroll Muffett. “Global warming is the greatest crisis humankind has ever faced and it is the defining test of leadership for this generation. It’s an open question whether President Obama will pass that test.”
“While President Obama’s speeches on global warming have been inspiring,” added Muffett, “we’ve seen a growing gap between the president’s words and his actions.”
Specifically, Greenpeace is calling on President Obama to:
• Strive to keep global temperatures as far below a 2 degrees Celsius increase as possible, compared to pre-industrial levels to avert catastrophic climate change;
• Set a goal of peaking global emissions by 2015 and be as close to zero as possible by 2050, compared to 1990 levels;
• Cut emissions in the U.S. by 25-40 percent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels;
• Join and encourage other members of the G8 to establish a funding mechanism that provides $106 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries adapt to global warming impacts that are now unavoidable and halt tropical deforestation.
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