I write this in a state of anguish for I know not how to reach out to the protectors of Mauna Kea, staunch in their beliefs and committed to their uncompromising sense of outrage toward the further incursion into the sanctified spaces of Mauna Kea.

Now that the Legislature has adjourned I fully expect that the governor will now turn his attention to ramping up engagement of all the major stakeholders in a search for some compromise that, however elusive, will forge a way forward so that both protectors and telescope advocates can emerge with a shared sense of righteousness that allows both to step into the future with their belief systems intact and together embrace the wonderment of the mountain and her majesty as one of the world’s great places.

My anguish lies in my frustration that I want to argue both sides of the equation.

Silverswords near the Mauna Kea visitors center. 10 april 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Silverswords near the Mauna Kea Visitors Center.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Not an equation that divides science and culture but an equation that, if navigated toward what seems a common ambition, leads both sides toward the same search for God and agreement that this very special mountain is a time portal that can connect us to our universal beginnings and the origins of our humanity.

And for Hawaii, the remotest group of islands in the world, to be blessed with such a call to greatness and human achievement makes it unthinkable for me to imagine that we will not find a way.

I cling to a very cautious optimism that with the right leadership emerging from the governor’s office, University of Hawaii Manoa, UH Hilo, the Thirty Meter Telescope consortium, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and the Native Hawaiian spiritual leaders that we will find a way to link arms in the name of humanity and share one of the greatest endeavors in the history of the world. The search for the origins of the universe and the ancestral home of all of earth’s people. And that in doing so the Hawaiian deities whose spirits dwell in the air columns of Mauna Kea would dance with joy and join us to seek the deeper truths of our existence.

With the Thirty Meter Telescope as the flashpoint, the protectors have rendered a great service to all Hawaii by dramatically heightening the case for re-visiting the terms and conditions of the entire Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan.

OHA’s recent vote to rescind its 2009 support of the TMT, while stopping short of opposing the TMT, provides a unique opportunity for OHA to remain on the field of play. The opportunity is not only a window toward improving the management of Mauna Kea but to surface issues generic to the entire public land trust responsibility the state has to Native Hawaiians as a condition of statehood.

A great start would be a commitment that the TMT will be the last telescope, a decommission and deconstruction plan for the older telescopes in shrinking the footprint of the telescope complexes, and direct access to telescope time for Hawaiians.

I ask all Hawaiians to join me in a fervent hope that our ancestral voices will find a way to speak to us and guide us forward with their ageless wisdom and that we will answer their call as one people. Ua mau keia o ka aina I ka pono.

Join the conversation about Mauna Kea, its sacred significance and scientific importance in our new Connections discussion thread. It’s the place for thoughtful commentary on this and other subjects. Check it out here.

About the Author

  • Peter Apo
    A former legislator, Peter Apo is a trustee of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the president of the Peter Apo Company LLC, a cultural tourism consulting company to the visitor industry. He has also been the arts and culture director for Honolulu, the city's director of Waikiki Development and served as special assistant on Hawaiian affairs to Gov. Ben Cayetano. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of OHA or other organizations he is involved in.