- Special Projects
Over the last month, I started asking different individuals what they thought might be the components of a longer-term solution to the current Mauna Kea quandary. The early responses intrigued me, so a colleague and I convened a small confidential discussion with nine other people who have considerable familiarity with the disputes taking place on the mountain.
It was an unusual and forward-thinking group. Of the 11 of us that participated, five were Native Hawaiians, two were astronomers and two were current or former government officials. Several had extensive experience as lawyers and planners and all shared a deep belief that the details of a serious resolution must be explored.
Everyone around the table also grasped the political complexity, the cultural sensitivity and the legal and administrative challenges involved. And everyone shared a belief that the substance and process of how this conflict ends will be an inflection point for the entire state.
We weren’t seeking consensus. This was a devising and brainstorming meeting and no one individual would agree with all of the ideas that were generated. However, all believed some list of possible concepts could prove worthy of discussion once a group of leaders with influence gathers to negotiate Thirty Meter Telescope’s and Maunakea’s future.
The following list is a starting point:
1. Any way out of the current situation must include a resolution of the TMT question, which is the epicenter of the present controversy. This specific issue is shrouded in other legitimate grievances, wishes, and aspirations. Everything needs to be on the table.
2. One possibility: change TMT’s location and move it to the site of the Caltech Sub-millimeter Observatory, which is scheduled for decommissioning.
3. Another: allow construction, but do not allow occupancy or “First Light” for TMT until the telescopes identified for decommissioning are down and the ground restored.
4. Include a further expansion of TMT’s benefits package that makes many more scholarships available for Hawaiian children to become the best scientists in the world. Not just astronomers; biologists, botanists, geologists, archeologists, historians, linguists, anthropologists, and other professions.
5. Hire all local management for TMT.
6. Prepare an independent and detailed analysis of two scenarios: what Hawaii gains and loses with and without TMT. Ensure that the analysis goes out quickly and broadly on social media.
7. Shift the locus of Mauna Kea’s telescope planning to the Hawaii Island community. Make Mauna Kea their kuleana. Move the Institute for Astronomy to Hilo.
8. Ask Native Hawaiian students to give the telescope a Hawaiian name.
9. Create a complete paradigm shift and transfer summit management into Hawaiian hands. Direct the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to hand over full authority and responsibility of the science reserve to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
10. The University of Hawaii must make decommissioning an immediate high priority and accelerate its schedule to prove good faith. Do it faster.
11. In addition to the current decommissioning plan, create a new 50-year lease after which all telescopes will come down from the mountain.
12. Designate specific sacred sites and areas on the mauna under the complete control of Native Hawaiians. No entry by non-Hawaiians without permission.
13. Create a “Sacred Places Collective” as a community resource for anticipating, preventing, managing and resolving future conflicts.
14. Broaden the astronomy mission and better utilize mid-level facilities to support a mountain education function away from the summit.
15. Create a visitors center that the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands controls on their lands at the entrance to Mauna Kea access road. Charge fees that then further DHHL’s mission.
16. Commission two co-equal, artistic and sculptured pillars that explain the skies, stars, and geology — one from a Native Hawaiian perspective, the other from a Western science perspective. Connect the two with a symbolic sky bridge.
17. Enable a group like Aha Hui Kū Mauna or Kahu Kū Mauna to update the Comprehensive Management Plan, the Master Plan, and the Decommissioning Plan. Give them real authority, not just consultation.
18. Secure a commitment that UH will not embark on any further projects until Aha Hui Kū Mauna or Kahu Kū Mauna has had the opportunity to work on those plans.
19. Use the mauna as a real malama aina model and relay to the world how we can balance cultural and land use affairs with a new kind of accord. Demonstrate how science, culture, Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians can coexist just as Hokulea managed to on its voyages.
20. Encourage the formation of a new hui of leaders. Populate the group with softer but strong voices. Their kuleana will require them to shape the new paradigm and become the “Vision Keepers.”
21. Use this moment to convene DHHL and all other state agencies to identify very specific Native Hawaiian concerns and grievances and to plan a suite of specific actions that will help rectify past injustices.
22. Part of the job of the governor, the Senate president, and the speaker of the House is to serve as our “first citizens.” Ask our political leaders to work together and issue a true apology for the history of mistakes made on the mauna and to the Hawaiian people. Bring together a high-level delegation of Native Hawaiians who can accept their apology.
23. Secure significantly more funding for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education for Native Hawaiians so we are guaranteed there will be a new and even stronger generation of Hawaiian scientists who can comfortably walk in multiple worlds. They can speak Hawaiian and simultaneously publish research findings to the world in prestigious journals.
24. Inaugurate a rigorous ceded lands discussion and explore alternative land tenure arrangements with Native Hawaiian leadership.
25. Advance the true melding of culture and astrophysics. Find new science/culture experts who will work together to articulate details, not just the generalities, of a fusion of Polynesian and Western science.
26. Create specific forms of access for community members to engage with and make good use of the telescopes.
27. The kia‘i have done a great service by bringing the Mauna Kea issue to public attention. However, they represent one pole in the debate. The construction of TMT represents an opposite one. Both are important but there is too much at stake for this to be a binary choice.
28. In his 13 “Rules for Radicals,” Saul Alinsky famously said, “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” We need a third choice that goes beyond “either/or” thinking. We also need a hui of thoughtful people to form a leadership group to construct a coexistence scenario. If we can’t create one, we will rip ourselves apart. Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim and others who are trying to do this are to be congratulated for their efforts.
29. The current impasse is not sustainable in its present form. Create a moratorium and pause long enough to explore a possible exit strategy from the current conflict so that a more inclusive and stable scenario can be explored and discussed.
30. Native Hawaiians need to identify who can represent Hawaiian people in serious negotiations. Current leadership is unclear or has not yet emerged.
31. Leaders who step up need to convene smaller groups of respected thinkers and devise tactics for forward momentum. It would be valuable to revisit the small-group process first established with Aha Hui Kū Mauna.
32. Use that trusted, third-party hui of leaders representing all sides to try and break the current deadlock. A solid “change” scenario is the way forward.
33. Expect disagreement but build a constructive and sustained dialogue. Begin with each and every person articulating every other person’s positions, values, fears and hopes…to his or her complete satisfaction. That is the starting point.
34. A new leadership hui will need to be a coalition of those willing to evolve a set of mutual benefit packages comprised of gives and takes that fairly balance TMT’s right to proceed with Native Hawaiian rights and makes actionable progress towards rectifying historical injustices.
35. Include and engage young Native Hawaiians who represent broader points of view than just the protectors or TMT advocates. There are other young scholars who will become bridge builders. Try hard to not let them inherit the current disappointment and anger.
These were this group’s ideas. We encourage others to come forward with concrete coexistence proposals that could be considered when the right leadership emerges.
The current standoff is a “win-lose” argument. Hawaii cannot become a serious model for others if that is the only face we display. Time for something different. In a fractious world full of angry disputes, we must find ways to live together.
If not, we self-destruct.
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