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 feel bad ppl do grafiit but….i won’t criminalize it when it is speech…just like I wouldn’t criminalize smoke signals even tho they pollute….these may soon be our way of communicating ….have you been on line to othe sites lately? Disqus has a monopoly now… How convient eh? .newspapers dead. Your only news is what google ‘filters’ to you and no more comments to get tips from other readers re: other sites with other news that wasn’t filtered to you….because disquis filters the comments. The mind has no firewall….google it some air force officer wrote it a decade ago. In a month or two even turley’s cite will succomb. Internet for ‘freedom’ is a joke. We are prisoners of the disqus google monopoly…..even josh blackman’s blog appears to have been undone.

  2. This is a great discussion among friends who promise to neither take a side nor let anger destroy an incredible opportunity for comparison. As you get further into something like this, how about the beauty created long ago? The Sistine Chapel, when first created was “hideous” said Michaelangelo. So he destroyed the first and created the second. Would society have wanted him jailed for destroying the first? I think King George would have burned the painting above. The redwood with a hole created for a car to drive through? Driving through the hole is a part of history in California. Would it be defamation today?

    Personally, I’m sad Niagra Falls was tampered with to use for good reasons? The stories of how far away you could hear the Falls and how massive seeing all of the originally discovered miles, estimated at twice what we have today, what a sight and sound!

    The art “lost” during WWII, the Amber Room, and what millions of people would have discovered/created/invented/produced instead of the loss to mankind is beyond estimating.

    And the destruction of mankind’s history being blown up, burned down, and watching beyond imagination the 20th Century beginning and apparently ending all in one lifetime.

    Graffiti, tagging, carved initials of love. Marks of what happened in that spot, and when. Trivial or stunning history (we still have pyramids, new passages man created to go to someplace they wanted to see). And the medicine/
    treatments to keep more of us alive; the weaponry, the creation of how to kill more people more quickly.

    History is instant, yet never ending. More books about Washington, Jefferson, with many still coming.

    We destroy history on the same day we are creating it. Plato, Socrates, Popes, Presidents, and then Drug Cartels, killings based on every religion ever created, black people freed to be diminished by “people of color,” used by whites and then by blacks. People from Mexico through South America “the browns” struggling for their children’s futures to be better.

    A few paragraphs in awe of what I’ve seen and lived, and not yet done. I can get information from the Internet in minutes that took lifetimes to produce. In a hospital tonight after surgery with a big room full of machines, computers, lights, and people, lots of people. With the hope that years of pain might be gone tomorrow.

    We need a new word, incredible is too puny. Peace and good health to all of you, especially doctors and all in the medical world who can change a life in four hours.

    Incredible is really too puny!

  3. I’d rather be an urban mess than a suburban scum a thousand times a week.

  4. I have an idea for an art project: An imprint of my foot on that guy’s rear end.

  5. Graffiti is vandalism. I agree that some of it is quite talented. Most of it is just trash and obscenities. BUT no matter how nice or terrible the graffiti is…… it is still vandalizing other people’s property.

    The parks, forests, historical places, wilderness are the property of the American People. When you have someone defacing that property and destroying the environment with their carvings, it is vandalism.

    Graffiti should be punished just in the same way you would punish someone who came to your home and broke your windows or spray painted your garage door.

  6. I could not agree with Mr. Turley more. I hike in WA state all the time, so far I have not seen any of this kind of idiocy and I hope I never do. I love hiking the mountains around here (Issaquah Alps for me most of the time) and one of the major attractions is that you get away from this kind of nonsense. Bust the guy.

  7. im so glad this blog doesn’t get to decide the societal parameters for art…

    If these garden variety vandals deserve felonies what do industrial leaders receive?? They are destroying the land at a much quicker rate than these persons.

    And typical american response to a problem – throw em in jail. “Smash it up with a sledge hammer and deal with it later”

    No, we should give artists more latitude rather than chilling there adventures. I’m willing to bet that we have more prisoners than artists in this country, due to this approach to society.

  8. Yes, Banksy is an artist. And I’ve never seen an ID’d piece of his in the wilderness. In fact, from the large Wiki article on him, he operates completely in urban spaces, or constructs backgrounds to paint ON. I guess that’s the difference between a responsible artist, and these dim-witted narcissists.

    1. chimene – Banksy is an artist. Andre Saraiva is an idiot who pretends to be an artist. People like Yoko Ono and Damien Hirst are the reason people like Andre Saraiva can pretend to be artists.

  9. Punishment should be tit for tat. Tie him to a railroad track. Shave his head. Spray with some strong acid so he cant grow hair anymore. Implant a tattoo on his head of Mount Rushmore. Or, a tattoo of a rat with his rear heading down the forehead and a turd dropping out above his eye. Or, remove his eye and tape it to the same monument which he disfigured. An eye for an eye.

  10. QUOTE “We need new laws that impose jail time for these felons.”

    WOW! No, they need to have the people clean up their own mess, and fine them for cost for their own arrest, materials, and anything else.

    We hardly need to make more felons, just responsible citizens.

  11. Tyger- yes, I had forgotten cairn stones. I was just playing the natural extreme end of the free speech angle. But seriously- one guy does ‘oatmeal’, another does ‘cookies’, if I stumbled across this in the woods in my solitary wanderings, I would laugh.

  12. @TygerG

    Your answer will never be tried. There is a widespread bias against solutions which work. Our country now prefers to wallow around in a problem, in much the same way as a dog will roll around in rabbit poop, and get it all over themselves, and make sure the aroma is ground in really, really good. There is probably some sort of primitive biological function going on here. That is why, for example, Chicago has murders out the wazoo, and zero executions for murder, and the people there walk around wondering why the murder rate is sooo high.

    Grafitti artists would probably not re-offend if, when caught, they received a half dozen whacks from a cane, like in Singapore, and then had to clean up the mess they made. Along with a promise of a full dozen whacks upon the second offense. But, as it is, our society prefers to spend millions of dollars annually cleaning up the mess, instead of cleaning up the mess-ers.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  13. A little time, for Saraiva, in the big house, might make him come around. I’m sure there’s no shortage of real swell fellas in there who would gladly tag him, with their initials and artwork, after they are finished with him.

    I can see it now: Bubba was here.

  14. Graffiti is an art form only when it is created someplace where the artist has permission to put it there. Some cities have walls specifically designated for it.
    Without permission to paint or carve on something, graffiti is defacement, and that is a criminal activity. It’s also disgusting in most people’s opinion, particularly when it is done in a public park or monument.

    The Old West had a way for dealing with criminals (and coyotes): Put a bounty on them. Put a bounty on graffiti artists just like coyotes, and you get rid of them over time. Bring one in with spray paint on his hands, dead or alive, and collect a $50 (or $500 or more) bounty. Coyotes are far better and more beneficial than graffiti artists, anyway.

    I was sitting on the side of North Mountain here in Phoenix one summer day taking photos of an approaching dust storm. Down below me was a big water storage tank for the city. I noticed two teenagers with backpacks on the road going up to it. They slipped through an opening in the fence surrounding the tank, pulled some spray paint cans out of their backpacks, and started decorating the side of the tank, which was very visible from the street below. I took pictures of them going through the fence, the tank without their trash art, them doing their painting, and the tank after it was defaced. Then I called the cops on my cell phone.

    I was surprised at how quickly the police arrived from both direction on the hill. Apparently, cops don’t like graffiti vandals either. The cops arrested the kids and I made a CD of my photos and gave it to them for evidence. The boys pleaded not guilty until they got to court and saw the photos. Then they changed their plea and had to do community service painting over graffiti around the city for several weeks. I suspect that ended their art career.

    1. Tyger – if you have permission to paint on something then it is a permissive mural. No permission, then it is graffiti.

  15. I love cities where there are designated areas for this. But, when an area has been preserved so that others can enjoy its pristine beauty, it’s just wrong.

  16. Well, it sounds to me like liberal lawyers’ chickens are coming home to roost! They tortured the First Amendment into all kinds of weird positions, and lo and behold, now they got a metaphorical case of cramps.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  17. Steg, the stacked rocks, called “cairns”, are meant to mark the trail so you don’t get lost when the trail goes over rocks or through a river where the path might be rather obscure otherwise.

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