I have been wanting to write about Mauna Kea and the ongoing protests against the building of a $1.4 billion thirty metre telescope on The Big Island of Hawai’i for some time now – as the Hawaiian government has placed a moratorium on the project, this is the perfect time to put my thoughts to paper; so to speak.
It has been almost two weeks since the demonstrations began. On March 30th, protesters in Hilo formed road blocks outside of the Mauna Kea visitors’ centre, and the support has been growing each day since then. Countless numbers of people, not just around the islands and the mainland, but around the world, have been taking to social media to show their support for the protection of the mountain. Many celebrities have also been posting #WeAreMaunaKea photos on Instagram – Jason Momoa, Nicole Scherzinger, Jai Courtney, Lisa Bonet, and Zoe Kravitz to name a few.
Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano standing 4205 metres above sea level and it is the highest point of elevation in the entire state. The dormant volcano is considered one of the most sacred areas on Hawai’i as it is the home of the snow goddess, Poli’ahu.
As a Canadian who has been immersed in Hawaiian Culture from a very young age, I have been deeply saddened and upset by the events that are currently taking place in Hilo. While it is a great thing that science and astronomy have come so far that we are able to build a telescope of this capacity, I do not agree with building an additional telescope on Mauna Kea when there are already so many up there, not to mention, the construction site is infringing upon sacred ground. I have been raised in a home deeply rooted in hula and the belief that the `âina (land) has been entrusted to us and it is our responsibility to care for it and protect it. It is not okay for the government and the University of Hawai’i to disregard the importance of this mountain and what has been rooted there for thousands of years – far longer than the existence of any telescope.
Here is what you need to know:
- There are currently thirteen telescopes on Mauna Kea. The basis for the new telescope is that it will be far more advanced than the ones already in existence – “It will be able to see much fainter and more distant objects than is possible with existing telescopes and to study them in greater detail. It will help to maintain Hawaiʻi’s worldwide leadership in astronomy” (www.hawaii.edu).
- The protests are not about being “anti-science”. There have been reports that the Hawaiian people are against the advancement of science and as such are forming the demonstrations. This is simply not the case. As I mentioned, Mauna Kea is one of the most sacred sites on Hawai’i – it is not that the protesters are against the progression of science, it is that the protection of the land is far more important to them. Therefore, the demonstrations are not against the telescope itself, but the location of where it is being built.
- The telescope will be thirty metres in height, approximately eighteen stories tall and will be roughly the size of a football field – a structure of this height would not otherwise be permitted in Hawai’i.
- Governor David Ige announced the week-long halt on construction, beginning April 7th, as a means to reconsider the construction. “Today I announced a week-long stand down of construction on the Thirty Meter Telescope so I can evaluate the situation from multiple perspectives” (www.indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com). Perhaps Ige will see the best option is move the Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT) Project elsewhere – replace an older telescope with this newer one. Maintaining the integrity of the university and keeping true to the land.
- Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has committed to a partnership in the building of the telescope. While we are unsure of the final numbers, it is said that Canada will contribute approximately $243.5 million. While this will mean an international partnership with the US, India, China, and a few others, I do not believe that this is worth the defiling of sacred land.
Who knows what the outcome will be at the end of the week, but for now we have to continue to show our support for the TMT Shutdown and the protection of Mauna Kea. Please help create awareness for the Hawaiian people and post a photo with the words “We Are Mauna Kea” on all of your social media outlets. You can sign the petition to stop further development at www.petitions.moveon.org or www.change.org.
Stay informed by subscribing to the Facebook page – Protect Mauna Kea
You can also show your support by purchasing a We Are Mauna Kea T-shirt from 50th State Of Mind. $10 of each shirt sold will go towards the fight to protect Mauna Kea. Shirts can also be purchased in youth sizes.
Ua mau ke ea o ka `âina i ka pono `o Hawai’i
Being perpetuated (is) the sovereignty of the land to righteousness/ to balance, Hawai`i