Greenpeace demonstrates that distributed democracies screw up also

Nasca Lines - Bird 

What is Greenpeace going to do about Nasca?
[Via Greg Laden’s Blog]

ADDED NOTE: I changed the name of this post because some chose to shift the focus of the discussion from Greenpeace’s horrendous act in Peru to whether or not my reaction is appropriate, as though I had done damage to some historic site or harpooned a whale. I live in Minnesota. I am not affected…


I talk a lot about the battle between hierarchical authorities and distributed democracies. As most of the power is held by the authorities, I often talk about the benefits of distributed democracies.

But what we need is balance.

Because what members of Greenpeace did in Peru is a great example of how distributed  democracies, especially those suffering from epistemic closure, can screw things up and do something stupid.

These guys thought they were doing something cute, smart and newsworthy. 

As I have said, distributed approaches are great at finding wise solutions but they are lousy at acting on those solutions. 

To take wise actions, we need a balance. If the balance is not there, things fall apart.

Without some real re-jiggering, it is possible that Greenpeace could see the same sorts of financial loss that the Komen Foundation saw when its Director went off into the weeds.

Komen made the error by the stupidity of its hierarchical authorities. Greenpeace has done this by the stupidity of its distributed democracies.

When you violate your mission, you quickly lose the communities you have created. Losing focus on that, and then having no  processes to balance the organization, can result in tremendous damage to the organization.