Where Culture and Science Collide

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Where Culture and Science Collide

A Mauna Kea Protector is admiring and acknowledging the Heiau.

A Mauna Kea Protector is admiring and acknowledging the Heiau.

Julia DeLeon

A Mauna Kea Protector is admiring and acknowledging the Heiau.

Julia DeLeon

Julia DeLeon

A Mauna Kea Protector is admiring and acknowledging the Heiau.

Julia DeLeon, Editor-in-Chief

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A controversy derived from our “rock”, expanded worldwide. Who would’ve known that our little bitty island could get recognized by regions around the globe. Multitudes of tourist appreciate the state as an ideal vacation destination, but respect for our people and their culture has been long overdue. But why, why now? What has become so viral that people around the globe are defending Hawaiian beliefs and activist movements? In opposition, education is worth the perseverance, right? A controversy has been ignited between scientists and their project verses Hawaiians, their culture, and the environment. People can perceive the subject as blown out of proportions, but it is not known as “The Great TMT Conflict” for nothing folks.

Individuals may wonder, what is TMT exactly. According to TMT International Observatory, the organization proposed a Thirty Meter Telescope that would allow Astronomers to observe the depths of space and cosmic objects with “unprecedented sensitivity”. The telescopes 30-meter diameter would surpass the world’s largest visible-light telescope currently existing. Thus providing images with sharper resolution quality than those from the Hubble Space Telescope. TMT could provide new observational opportunities in each and every field of astrophysics and astronomy. A pro-TMT argument is that fundamental questions could then be addressed. 

The TMT International Observatory LLC (TIO) is an international partnership between different organizations. After rigorously spanning the globe for the ideal location, with no features that would potentially affect the telescopes performance, the Board of TMT selected Mauna Kea in July of 2009. From 2009 to 2019, it has been quite a journey and a learning experience. Since the launch of TMT, they have so-called engaged “to better understand the island’s issues as well as the cultural and natural significance of Mauna Kea.”

I am going to go out on a limb here and say most of you all read that last sentence in disbelief. Don’t get me wrong, I am one to always understand both perspectives. I therefore recognize that the telescope could provide more insight on the universe than any existing telescope can. On the other hand, my understanding and agreement are completely diverse ideas.

With this point in mind, proceeding to attempt construction despite a united stand amongst millions, is not understanding nor respectful to the significance of Mauna Kea or Hawaiian Culture. Through Hawaiian beliefs and mo’olelo, Mauna Kea is the piko of water that filters throughout Mother Earth, rejuvenating life as a whole. Rather than trying to look for what is beyond our world, the human race should focus on saving and respecting the world we are originally privileged with. Without recognition and respect for different regions, what peace will ever be maintained? Letting possessiveness infiltrate intentions will be the doom of us all. Unfortunately, it is this exact concept that is upbringing this viral controversy. The battle to preserve Mauna Kea is a broader movement than towards TMT specifically. “It is about freedom, culture, heritage, and religion; Centuries of being stripped of knowledge and culture,” explains Earl DeLeon, a Kapu Aloha leader on the Mauna. Genocide is defined as the destruction of ethnic, religious, or racial groups. Consider Hawai’i as a victim of “silent genocide”. Just think, are we building on your Mormon Temple without your permission? What about your Christian Church? Bearing in mind that that is a clear no, in what morality is it okay to build on sacred lands, which many indigenous people find to be their church?

To continue the point above, according to civilbeat.org, “TMT officials say they have sought to minimize the project’s environmental effects”. The Officials believe “by choosing a site where fewer animals might be affected, building a double-walled septic tank to handle all wastewater, and committing to using less hazardous chemicals in the observatory”, is sufficient in keeping the environment safe. Let me just say that one way or another, there could always be a leak of pollutants. Pollutants released on sacred crown lands, must I remind you. Back tracking a little bit, “fewer animals” harmed? For one, no animals should be harmed if Officials are going to such claimed extent of acknowledgement. Secondly, “less hazardous chemicals” are still hazardous chemicals. Kealoha Pisciotta, who leads the Mauna Kea Anaina Hou group, said a comprehensive study of how TMT could have an impact on the water supply, has not been done. To add, she says that the telescopes that are currently based on the Mauna, have not undergone adequate studies either. The University of Hawaii has a history of poor management of Mauna Kea’s environmental and cultural resources. Given this statement, she asserts, “the TMT would further desecrate the mountain”. On the other hand, she hasn’t always had this perspective. Two decades ago, she worked as an assistant telescope specialist for the British government on Mauna Kea. “I left because I couldn’t defend the university’s claim that they were taking care of the mountain,” Pisciotta affirmed.

This 10 year battle has opened the eyes of not only Hawaiian population, but humans globally. Truths of history have been withheld greatly, but this is an extensive subject that must be expounded upon in a different time. There must be a balance between culture and technology. Without balance of anything, the cycle of greed will be everlasting.

Considering the advancement in science and technology, individuals may question as to why the controversy is so viral. Although there was an extreme break-through in astronomical mechanization, this is a break-through for the Hawaiian Kingdom that will go down in history. This is the “big stand” for the Hawaiian Kingdom, finding it is our kuleana to finally say “enough is enough”. For these reasons presented, and unquestionably more, this movement is above us all. 

 

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