It’s been almost 8 months since Indigenous protestors have held their Sacred mountain of Mauna Kea and delayed the construction of the TMT and the short version update is that they are still there. Sort of .
Before I reflect on that, I would like to share a rather insightful comment that I did receive directly by email rather than the comment section. This is from Lex and I have cut and pasted below–with his permission of course.
Regarding he Mauna Kea situation : If there is any common ground between science and traditional beliefs, maybe it´s that we both want to understand where we are in space and time, and how we got here and why—and we share a belief that we CAN understand it. But sadly, for some reason humans seem to prefer battling over their differences instead.
Maybe it´s our instinctive fear of predators: if you let down your guard, someone will take what you have. (The mass media certainly foster this above all else: news reports, advertising, everything is about playing on people´s fear, and claiming to protect them from dangers all around them. This is no way to live.
Thanks so much for that, Lex. It’s nice to hear someone’s thoughts and opinions other than mine. 🙂
As usual , there is a dearth of information in the mainstream media about the status of the current stand off but I was able to dig up a February 17th video from Big Island Video News that showed highlights from a panel discussion among TMT supporters. Finally, I thought, –the perspective from the “other side”, although I dislike using that term as it is obviously divisive and promotes the “us and them ” attitude that is at the heart of all of these kinds of situations. When really, at the end of the day , there is really just all of us sharing this planet and we need to figure it out. After viewing some of discussions from the panel, I am hopeful that these 2 communities are moving closer together and will find way to do just that–figure it out.
The comments were interesting, thoughtful and just as passionate as the views held by the protestors/protectors of the Mountain.
Wally Ikusabashi, from the Office of Mauna Kea management, predictably, underlined the economic importance of the TMT project but not before acknowledging the pain and suffering of his people and what he referred to as the “100 years of tears” . But he views the project as something positive for his people and posed a rhetorical question to the protestors. ” This is the best opportunity for our people” he said adding that until someone provides a better solution – “Where is Plan B?” – he is supporting the project, noting that there is always going to be something to protest but it is time to move forward.
James Mauliola Keaka Stone Jr., an attorney, educator and cultural practitioner, was equally impassioned when he said ” It is dishonest to say that scientific activity somehow offends Hawaiian culture, sensibility or religion. It is dishonest to deny a future to the next Heather Kaluna.”
The young lady he was referring to is Heather Kaluna, a Hawaiian astronomer and also a member of the panel. It was her comments that I found most compelling. A professor of Astronomy and Physics at the University of Hawaii, she spoke of her love for her career in Astronomy – a field which she described as “beautiful”. She also expressed concern about the negative perception created by the protests and said that some of her students were considering dropping out of the program because their parents were upset by their decision to major in Astronomy. While noting that the majority of the jobs in Hawaii are in the tourist industry, she bemoaned the prospect of the loss of jobs and opportunity for young people in the high tech and scientific fields which “teaches young people to sharpen their minds and shoot for something larger than themselves.”
Beautifully expressed, Heather. It is still so difficult for me to imagine how anyone could be threatened by a field that explores the Universe and strives for knowledge and understanding to help us understand our place in it and answer the “Big Questions” about our origins that each and everyone of us has–regardless of race or religion. And yet—as I have noted before –this is a complex issue with many layers. I can’t help but noting how it mirrors a very similar situation going on in my own country right how where Native protestors opposed to a pipeline intended to go through their land, were intermittently shutting down the rail system and halting transportation right across Canada. It’s going to take a lot of dialogue and mutual understanding to find that middle ground in that situation as well.
The good news on Mauna Kea, at least as of this writing, is that some of the blockades have come down temporarily to allow public access to the Mountain and the other telescopes. But the protestors have promised that they will go right back up if construction activity begins. I’m not sure where that leaves the TMT project and as far as I can tell, both parties are awaiting “further communication” . I hope that comes soon and that they eventually figure it out and find that elusive middle ground. What an example that would provide to the rest of the world:)
Would love to hear your thoughts, opinion, criticism or just a musing on the subject.