I am writing this as an individual who has been closely involved in the Thirty Meter Telescope issue. I also happen to be a PUEO board member. PUEO (Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities) was the only Native Hawaiian entity that participated in the TMT contested case hearing in support of the TMT.

I was one of the three original TMT committee members of the Hawaii Island Economic Development Board 10 years or so ago.

To me the problem stems from an inadequate accommodation of the Hawaiian culture. The observatories are like little temples. Where is the Hawaiian temple?

The problem is showing itself when the Mauna Kea Support Services is expected to perform its mission on an inadequate amount of land. Since the Saddle Road was redone, there are more and more people going to the summit. There are 300 or so visitors every evening.

Star gazing has been curtailed due to safety reasons. Sales of souvenirs exceed $1 million annually. Something has to give.

The author urges the UH Board of Regents to accommodate Hawaiian culture in the management of Mauna Kea.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

It does not matter which entity, the University of Hawaii or a new management authority, takes over. What matters is control of the land on which a cultural center above the clouds can go.

Right now, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources controls the area west and adjacent to Hale Pohaku. UH does not have control of enough land to separate the visitor issues from the hard core mission of the Maunakea Support Services.

A Systemic Problem

The people who work at the Maunakea Support Services are doing a good job with the resources that they are given. It’s a systemic problem that can only be solved when people recognize the problem. Trying to squeeze an inadequate culture center on the tiny property is not solving the problem.

The UH Institute for Astronomy is responsible for figuring this out. I don’t see that they “get it.” From that standpoint I support moving the IFA to the Big Island.

I support the good work that the Office of Maunakea Management has done over the years. However, they to need to think past the Hale Pohaku footprint. It’s not adequate for the next 50 years.

The observatories are like little temples. Where is the Hawaiian temple?

I support an audit, not because I think it’s necessary, but because people need a common frame of reference of understanding where the money goes and what is real money and what is not. Building the facility takes real money, trading telescope time is not. I may be wrong, but I don’t think that the audit will turn out like the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ recent audit. OHA should not have anything to do with managing Maunakea, except collecting their 20 percent.

As Hawaiian language proliferates, year after year, the pressure will inevitably build. The Hawaiian race is diluting rapidly. My grandma was pure Hawaiian. Two generations later, I am a quarter Hawaiian. What will we look like and who will people of 1/64th Hawaiian associate themselves with?

We need a place where we will not be forgotten.

Soon we will be flying into space. Will Hawaiians have a place in the discussion? Not if we do not have a place above the clouds with the observatories.

I think the cultural center above the clouds can be the place where the generations of Hawaiian language school graduates can associate themselves positively with.

The cultural center can separate the support services mission from the cultural. This is a huge safety issue.

It can be the place where the UH Hawaiian language school can send graduates to educate.

‘Cultural Center Above The Clouds’

We do not have to reinvent the wheel. Imiloa understands how this can work — Imiloa Mauka, Imiloa Makai.

People have to go to the 9,000-foot level to acclimate anyway. We could locate the cultural center to get a western look toward the sunset. From there the traffic to the summit can be controlled by charging more. If we do that, the cultural center becomes more sustainable.

Hawaiian craft people can sell their stuff to tourists. We don’t have to buy as much stuff from outside the state to sell to tourists. Right now, we generate $1 million annually without trying. Imagine if we tried.

A cultural center above the clouds would represent real moral authority.

I don’t think it’s fair to put everything on UH. This is a whole state issue. How about the rich people who live in Hawaii? I’m sure they would contribute to a cultural center above the clouds. This is a world issue, rich people in the world would see the value of a cultural center above the clouds.

I mahalo Sen. Kai Kahele for bringing the issue forward. I don’t think anyone else could have done what he did.

In pre-contact days, we lived in a “gift economy.” The more one gave, the more one received. Anyone traveling on the Kings trail around the island knew he/she would be welcomed if they needed shelter. Then, it became the “market economy.” The more one took, the more one received. This is the big disconnect that exists today.

Hawaiians are known for sustainability and the spirit of aloha. This is the moral authority that the cultural center above the clouds would represent. This is the value that our whole world needs more of. And, this is what we should take with us when we go exploring again.

Build the cultural center above the clouds and everything else will fall into place.

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About the Author

  • Richard Ha
    Farmer Richard Ha has built a hydroelectric plant at his 600-acre farm in Pepe‘ekeo on the Big Island in order to decrease his reliance on oil-based power. His focus is on helping the Big Island choose smart alternatives now that will reduce its dependence of foreign oil and allow the Island to live a more sustainable lifestyle, in Hawaii, post-Peak Oil.