The Hawaii Supreme Court’s decision to approve the construction of the world’s largest telescope, the Thirty Meter Telescope on top of Mauna a Wākea breaks many hearts as it commits to break new ground. While the decision is not surprising to many of us who have been following along the public deliberations closely, what is striking is the continued misuse of the terms “progress” and “moving forward” in relation to the Hawaiian community.

As graduates of the University of Hawaii Political Science program have documented, this discourse assumes a kind of linear rupture between past, present and future, framing the Hawaiian community as stuck in a different time.

When the Civil Beat editors unanimously declare support for the TMT with a headline stating that “It’s Time to Move Forward,” they perpetuate a backwards-looking perspective (“With High Court’s Ruling On Mauna Kea, It’s Time To Move Forward,” Oct. 31). Such language needs closer examination.

Supporters gather on the road fronting the Mauna Kea visitor center. 10 april 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Protestors gather on the road fronting the Mauna Kea visitor center, April 2015

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

There are multiple edges, angles, and perspectives of Hawaiian visions for the future. This intervention intends to provide a prism, refracting rays of light to highlight how Hawaiians have, and always will, continue to live in the future. As a Canadian and a newcomer to Hawaii, someone foreign to but yet a student of this place, there is much for us to learn from the Hawaiian community about sustainable, decolonial futures.

The University of Hawaii Manoa Department of Political Science draws graduate students from around the world who specialize in indigenous politics and alternative futures. One of the most highly subscribed courses is an advanced seminar on decolonial futures. This course encourages students to share their visions for alternatives to the colonial status quo, in Hawaii and across Oceania.

Now it is time to rethink the language we use, and to respectfully listen.

The expression for these visions range from sophisticated video games in olelo Hawaii like He Au Hou to embodied learning through hula. Together we read cutting-edge research in the field and center Hawaiian voices.

For instance, required reading for this course, and for Civil Beat readers, is a blog post by Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada: “We Live in the Future. Come Join us.” Here are some highlights: resistance to continued development at Mauna a Wākea reflects how Hawaiians come together not to protest an infringement on the past, but to defend possibilities for the future.

‘Breathing Alternatives’

The future is a realm where Hawaiians have lived for thousands of years, evidenced by non-instrument navigation technologies such as the much-celebrated Hokulea voyage and other sustainable ways of life, including the fishpond system. Each of these reflects connection, between past, present and future, humans and more-than-human lives to generate fertile futures. These sophisticated technologies bridge ancestral teachings with possibilities for abundant and sustainable ways of living and being in the world.

The United Nations Scientific Panel on Climate Change report revealed the urgent need to change how we relate to the environment. Our elders who have survived and thrived for generations have much to teach us. Hawaii, particularly Hawaiian culture and ways of life, offers living and breathing alternatives. Now it is time to rethink the language we use, and to respectfully listen.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Columns generally run about 800 words (yes, they can be shorter or longer) and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

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