Graffiti Artists Defacing Natural Areas and Wilderness Trails In Latest Tagging Sensation

220px-André_SaraivamrA_smallThere is a growing war between environmentalists and graffiti artists over “tagging” natural settings and parks. Hiking is my main pastime and I have long been mystified by people who go to gorgeous natural settings and degrade them with their graffiti. However, some “artists” are now heralding the move to add graffiti to natural trails and sites. One of them is Andre Saraiva is an internationally known graffiti artist who showed how he tagged a boulder at the Joshua Tree National Park. In my view, he should be arrested but he and other graffiti artists think that this is a matter of celebration and pride to ruin these sites for the rest of us. Saraiva appears to believe that some of us go on hikes to see his childish scriblings on tree and rock. Most people try to escape such urban mess by taking to the trails and Saraiva and others are committed to degrading nature in the very same way. The solution is simple in my view: arrest him.

Saraiva recently posted his graffiti from Joshua Tree on the website Modern Hiker. He lives in France but traveled to the United States to destroy the site. Such graffiti is surging in national parks. I have personally witnessed the increase all over the country and these juveniles tend to fuel each other in such graffiti.

I have always found it otherworldly that people would come to these natural settings because of their beauty and then degrade or destroy them for others. This includes, as previously discussed, historic locations in Europe and the United States. I was struck by such graffiti in Sicily for example. The desire to mark these sites is so great that some idiot even carved up the local plant life in Agrigento to leave their “tag” on the site:


It is remarkable that the level of insecurity or need for attention is so great that you have to carve your initials even into plant life at historic sites.

We have seen the same type of narcissism at the colosseum where tourists, including two recent Americans, have carved their initials into the wall. Once again, the Italians in my view have insufficient sanctions by not jailing such offenders and only imposing fines. Indeed, the failure to release their names reduces the deterrent effect.

However, the tagging of nature is especially bizarre. In Joshua Tree alone, these ingrates defaced Rattlesnake Canyon with these tags and pictures — requiring rangers to close the trial and ordering a clean up.


The National Park Service believe that the creep who did this is Casey Nocket, 22, of New York. What is particularly disgusting is that these pictures were then proudly posed with the phrase “Creepytings 2014” on California hiking websites Calipidder and Modern Hiker.

Hikers are trying to help out to stop these people. They have also denounced Saraiva who responded by denying that the boulder that he defaced was in the park in an Instagram posting — saying his work was “made with love at friends privet back yard and not your national park! [sic].” Hikers showed the boulder was indeed in the park. However, even after being found out, Saraiva only had to pay a $275. That’s it. No jail time. No serious fine. What sense does that make?

We need new laws that impose jail time for these felons. There is a long-standing theory that deterrence is a balance of the size of the penalty and the rate of detection. As detection rates fell, penalties are increased to maintain the level of deference. Since these are often remote areas, detection is very low. Without serious punishment, creeps like Saraiva will continue to destroy our natural areas in senseless acts of juvenile vanity.

52 thoughts on “Graffiti Artists Defacing Natural Areas and Wilderness Trails In Latest Tagging Sensation”

  1. i have been to Joshua Tree NP many times…primeval Joshua tree’s are majestic, botanical jewels that need strict enforcement to preserve, for future generation’s…the rock formations of granite, schist, olivine, quartz, and mica also need preservation from the socially deviant tagger…these dirty little miscreant’s need to be hung up by their proverbial “buster brown’s”…or taken to the woodshed for a nice little “burner”…get my drift?

  2. Graffiti on private or public property needs to be stopped. If you want to ‘tag’ something, draw that cr-p on your own house. Or you & your buddies can buy a piece of property somewhere and deface it all you want.

  3. This issue isn’t graffiti but *where* the graffiti is placed. Walls can be re-painted; natural settings or aging architecture cannot.

    In the case of Iceland, I want to see the geyser as it is, not in an arbitrary color by a boring attention-seeker. Doesn’t matter if the food dye is “safe” either: because whoever was there at the time was denied that experience.

  4. Nick – “He would pass a polygraph.” Really?!? Anyone who can squeeze their sphincter can pass a polygraph. The only thing scientific about a polygraph is that it has conclusively proven that even otherwise intelligent people have little understanding of science. It’s akin to creation “science”.

    As to the subject at hand, apparently it is art, but as my recent trip to MOMA taught me, I neither like nor understand it. But I think the principle of reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions apply here such that there could be no first amendment claim–even for purely political protest art.

    But NONE of these people should be jailed. Let’s fine them for the cost of cleanup and replacement, but reserve jail for those who are a real danger to the health and safety of others. In a world with truly horrific ISIS headlines, let’s not lose our perspective about these “dangerous” artists.

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