A’ole TMT, A’ole

11182223_1564415233822521_2941821986066975327_n-615x410They call it Hawaii’s Civil Rights Movement. The controversy of the thirty-meter telescope (TMT) constructing on Mauna Kea arises many issues of native Hawaiian beliefs, practices and astronomers legal claims. Mauna Kea’s “summit is 9 kilometers above the adjacent ocean floor, making Mauna Kea the tallest mountain in the world.” Hawaiians declare Mauna Kea sacred because they believe their ali’i, Haloa was birthed there; it is their connection to their ancestors. Kanaka (native Hawaiians) connect deeply with the ‘aina (land). The air is clean, thin, away from any urban structures and light pollution, making Mauna Kea the perfect spot for observation. Although the TMT gives promises to new scientific discoveries, human rights and beliefs of native Hawaiians should not have to be sacrificed.

The TMT pushes the boundaries of science. It will enable astronomers to gather research not available from current telescopes, revealing new information about the universe. The TMT has sparked protests in March 2015 because of the lack of native Hawaiian consent, halting the construction of the second biggest telescope in the world that would desecrate native Hawaiian’s most sacred land. The controversy of the TMT argues through scientific advances and knowledge against native Hawaiian rights and beliefs. What is more valuable: scientific advancement or human rights?
To some Kanaka and protestors, the installation of the TMT would desecrate a very sacred place. Mauna Kea is believed to be the “firstborn child of Papa and Wakea”—the creators of the Hawaiian chain. Therefore, Mauna Kea is the “piko” (navel) of the Hawaiian Islands; it is also the closest spot to heaven. They trust this is where their ali’i, Haloa, was born. Mauna Kea’s “pu’u, or cinder cone, has been confirmed to contain burials.” Today, practices are still held on Mauna Kea. Ceremonies of chant are held for the gods and the burials. The water of Lake Waiau, connected to the god Kāne, is used for healing ceremonies. Some residents also “practice [taking] a child’s piko (or umbilical cord) to Waiau.” As Kanaka, they must protect their land from further abuse.

Law HAR 13-5-30 denies any construction on conservation lands that do not pass strict criteria. The industrial development cannot “cause substantial adverse impact to existing natural resources within the surrounding area, community, or region. The existing physical and environmental aspects of the land, such as natural beauty and open space characteristics, will be preserved or improved upon, whichever is applicable.” Protestors will argue that the development of a “18 story telescope, digging 20 ft. into the ground, excavating 64,000 cubic yards, adding 3,400 ft. of new road, interrupting the view plane to Haleakala, producing 120-250 cubic ft. of solid waste a week, and using 5,000 gallons of underground tank for waste storage and hazardous chemicals” cannot satisfy that law in any way.

The University of Hawaii “supports the TMT project because it contributes significantly to the university’s mission of advancing knowledge.” Under the universities logo states, “ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono” meaning, “the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.” Student protestors claim that the TMT is not supported by UH’s statement; the TMT is not ‘pono’ (right) for the land of Hawaii. The $1.4 billion TMT is supported by UH Manoa, partially funded by students tuition. The student body at UH “passed a senate resolution opposing the construction of any new telescopes on the northern plateau of Mauna Kea, including the proposed TMT, without further input from stakeholders.”

There are currently 13 telescopes existing on Mauna Kea which UH Manoa has illegally leased off for $1 per year of their free 65- year lease contract. Why was land leased at $1? There are also three ongoing court cases with the TMT, yet the university and government officials still push on construction. The lack of consent with native Hawaiians and the UH student body leaves protestors questioning official’s objective and willingness to listen and discuss the issue at hand.

Kanaka have steadily protested day and night since March. Meanwhile, the state has been working on “emergency laws,” limiting native Hawaiian access to their own land. At least 31 protestors have been arrested for blocking the road with giant boulders to the construction site of the TMT. Governor Ige claims this is an act of vandalism. In response, Hawaiians ask, then what is the TMT?

The construction of the TMT “would allow astronomers to see 13 billion light-years away.” According to the projects website, the telescope would make visible “galaxies at the very edge of the observable Universe, near the beginning of time.” The TMT would allow further advancements in technology and understandings of our Universe. Although UH Manoa will not benefit monetarily from the TMT, the global astronomy reputation will up hold UH Manoa. The development would also create “300 construction jobs and up to 140 permanent jobs in Hawaii.”

Peter Apo, a trustee of Office of Hawaiian Affairs, claims Kanaka have always been in search for knowledge. In supporting new technology and discoveries, Hawaiians have also altered natural landscapes by “diverting natural streams from mountains to the sea and created elaborate gravity-flow irrigation systems that fed every part of the valley-shaped habitats called ahupua’a.” Polynesians have impressed westerner with their knowledge of stars. For centuries, Polynesians studied “the stars and [built] sky maps that provided the navigational knowledge to explore and discover many specks of land… Their quest for knowledge about the stars was too important to them” to “brush aside the TMT.” Because ancient native Hawaiians supported astronomical studies and relandscaping natural habitats, Apo claims ancient Kanaka would support the construction of the TMT.

With the improvements of science and technology, society’s standard of living has increased tremendously. Some claim the protesters are “anti-science.” Denying the telescope has “raised the issue of progress,” claims Victor Craft, a retired aerospace worker. Pro-TMT says that protestors should embrace technology because “change is inevitable. Progress will come one way or another. It has its intended and unintended consequences.”

I have witnessed hearings and testimonies discussing the TMT. I have witnessed native Hawaiians, haole’s, Japanese, Portuguese, Koreans, and everything in between unite to stand up against the TMT. I have witnessed tears, songs, and chants pleading officials to at least talk over the issue. As a Japanese Hawaiian, UH Manoa student born and raised in Hawaii, I do not think desecration is education. Disregarding native Hawaiian beliefs and rights in efforts to profit is not ethical.

The TMT offers great advances in science, technology, and knowledge. However, the government lacks moral receptivity and continues to cut corners in order to continue construction. For 47 years, the government, science community, DLNR, and UH Manoa has violated laws protecting native Hawaiian’s human rights. The Hawaii state government needs to simply abide by its own laws says Hawaiian activist, Mililani Trask. Protecting Mauna Kea is not an act of “anti-science.” Instead it is an act of “anti-oppression.” Disharmony is a direct result of oppression. Disrespecting native Hawaiian’s and their land is not “pono” (righteous). The state of Hawaii needs your help. Say a’ole (no) TMT, a’ole.



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