Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawai’i is not only the highest peak in the Hawaiian Islands it is also at least the second most geologically prominent mountains in the world from the sea floor to the summit. Mauna Kea translates into “white mountain” due to the snow-capped peaks where only the highest-ranking tribal chiefs were allowed to go.
The mountain last erupted 4,600 years ago until the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope led to another type of conscious detonation amongst the native Hawaiians to whom the land still spiritually belong.
In 2009, the Board of Directors of the TMT Observatory Corporation selected Mauna Kea as their preferred site, thirty meters refers to the diameter size of the proposed primary mirror of the telescope. The Board of Directors is made up of representatives from the California Institute of Technology, University of California, Caltech, Canada, China and Japan with no representation from the Hawaiian people.
The law surrounding Mauna Kea calls for no “substantial adverse impact to existing natural resources within the surrounding area, community, or region” and “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” (HAR 13-5-30).
Ultimately, the TMT will encompass up a total area of 5 acres of the sacred mountain with 18-stories above and 20 feet below ground, and an 8-acre disturbed construction footprint. To put it into perspective, the average American football field is 1.32 acres. The view will mask the natural sight of Maui’s Haleakala while producing 74 dba of noise, which is about the same loudness as a gas lawnmower constantly going on the mountain.
Nearly 120-250 cubic yards of waste will be gathered in a 5,000-gallon underground storage tank that includes hazardous chemicals near the island’s aquifer. “Construction will impact fragile habitats of native plants and animals found only on Mauna Kea, with no guarantee of restoration when the lease term ends” (kahea.org).
Hawaiians have always considered Mauna Kea’s slopes sacred and used its resources for food, tool production, survival, and ancestral burial. When western civilization arrived, the natural ecology of the mountain began to diminish from feral cattle brought to the island and forests cleared by the sugar industry. Since the construction of roads to the summit in 1964, eleven countries have built thirteen telescopes. Mauna Kea became a National Natural Landmark in 1972.
TMT Project Manager Gary Sanders released the following statement on TMT’s website: “TMT respects the rights of everyone to express their viewpoints. We also respect the law of the State of Hawai’i and the seven-year-public process and authority that granted us permits to build the Thirty Meter Telescope in the Maunakea Science Reserve’s Astronomy Precinct. Like most people in the community we truly believe that science and culture can coexist on Maunakea as it has for the past 50-years along with other public uses.”
The TMT is a threat to the indigenous Hawaiian people. Since Hawai’i’s takeover by military and industrial sectors of the American government, the Hawaiian culture has been exploited for commercial gain. The fact is many native Hawaiians live in extreme poverty due to the economic thefts. According to the Department of Education, almost 20% of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders live in poverty while the percentage of Hawai’i’s poorest families have experienced the smallest income gains in the last twenty years.
Statistics and data aside, Native Hawaiians have experienced less attention than any other indigenous group in the United States. The powers that be seem to mistake the spirit of ALOHA for weakness and continually defy the wishes of Hawai’i’s first and rightful inhabitants. Whether or not you believe in the construction of the TMT in the name of science or progress, without the Native Hawaiian’s blessing, it is simply WRONG!
Over the last week, construction was about to begin before groups made their way to the Mauna Kea to peacefully prevent the work. Images of signs saying “WE’RE NOT PROTESTORS, WE’RE PROTECTORS” and “WE ARE MAUNA KEA” have made their way across the Pacific to supporters on the mainland.
Almost thirty people have been arrested trying to protect the sacred ‘aina while teachers, servers, and other workers are taking unpaid time off of work. Various funds have been set up to help alleviate the financial burden they endure. Those who have already contributed $100 million to the $1.4 billion project are undoubtedly biding their time until the dissenter’s funds have run out.
On Tuesday, Hawaii’s Governor David Ige temporarily halted construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope for one week. Although this is a nice gesture that is hopefully not just to save political face, there is much work that needs to be done to permanently stop construction.
You can contribute to the funds that are typically used for bail, legal fees, rent, petitions, websites, food, warm clothes, or anything else they might need.
I am currently putting together compilation albums that will be donated to the following sites. If you are in a band and would like to contribute a song please email email@example.com. Albums will be available through digital download for $5.99 with 100% of the proceeds donated to the following causes: