When the controversy of Thirty Meter Telescope first came out, I was pro-TMT. I didn’t understand how deeply the controversy ran, and frankly, figured that there were tons of stuff that we should be worrying about instead.

NOTE: pick the correct link

I revisited my initial opinion about it…and a lot of those points still stand, but I realized I had looked at all of it wrong.

Protecting Mauna Kea is a big deal. It’s the culmination of a conflict that, for many of us, had been quietly brewing in the background. Many of the problems I originally outlined continue to exist with no end in sight. It isn’t that people don’t care. It’s that this status quo has persisted so aggressively, it almost seems OK.

It isn’t. We’ve been working with people who simply don’t care.

TMT Mauna Kea demonstrators hold their hands up and gesture the Mauna Kea hand symbol.

TMT demonstrators on the Mauna Kea Access Road, July 17.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

TMT, the Ala Wai, homelessness, the rising cost of living. These are all symptoms of a larger problem. The people in charge of making decisions have consistently placed Hawaii and its citizens’ welfare second to outside interests.

It’s hard to refute with each monster home built and new luxury high rise erected. These decision-makers subsidize greed through Hawaii’s citizens; like the protectors of Mauna Kea, the homeless population, and those working multiple jobs just to survive.

These “leaders” have consistently shown that they’re not good stewards of the land and don’t plan to be.

Land exploitation has existed in many forms. The forms today include “affordable” high-rises, rail, and continued development without regard to the islands’ resources. It caters to those who don’t have a deep and continued interested in seeing Hawaii thrive.

What are we doing to honor the land? The people whose history and culture are tied so deeply to it? What are we saving for our children’s future?

Poor Stewards

The histories of indigenous and minority cultures have been systematically erased at various points in world history. Even now, I’ve seen few examples where leaders choose to recognize past atrocities and instead, continue to ignore and erase them.

We’re taught to believe that science and technology is the only way to go…but I don’t believe that’s true. There’s so much about the world we don’t know and understand, culturally and scientifically. To insist that one way is wholly and inarguably better, is wrong.

I’ve since changed my stance on TMT. I don’t think it should be built. I don’t think we should move forward with anything until the state and its “leaders” take action to prove they’re good stewards of the land and its people.

Despite the opportunities they’ve had in the past, they haven’t made a purposeful and prolonged effort, not yet. Hawaii has been more than generous and accommodating, yet these “leaders” have shown that they’re willing to take until there’s nothing left for anyone. Building another telescope on Mauna Kea is assertion of dominance by an outside interest. Again.

“Protecting Mauna Kea represents so much for Hawaiians and Hawaii’s residents.”

The leaders backing TMT want to create a community with the telescope, but a community already exists. This community’s wealth isn’t measured in millions of dollars and IQs and degrees. It’s measured in the relationships of its people, the stories they share, and the deep respect they have for the islands.

I do believe culture and science and community and technology can coexist. However, it can’t be done if these decision-makers continue to ignore the Hawaiian people. They can try, but they can’t erase them.

Protecting Mauna Kea represents so much for Hawaiians and Hawaii’s residents. If TMT is built, these “leaders” will have clearly asserted that Hawaii’s indigenous culture is unimportant to its future and is simply a marketable commodity. The problems regarding infrastructure, education, and cost of living will continue because they’ve allowed it to persist.

Hawaii will only belong to those who can afford it. It will tell the world that Hawaii’s value is only in the dollar signs assigned to each acre of land. Let me be clear, all land is valuable and should be treated with reverence. But if these “leaders” can’t respect what is sacred…well, we already know what they’ll do to what isn’t.

That said, TMT can leave. If it wants to participate in Hawaii’s community, it can adapt in a way that honors Hawaii and works with its people. TMT shouldn’t force Hawaii to adhere to its expectations and guidelines and restrictions.

It’s time for our “leaders” to work for Hawaii’s best interests, and not their own. Until then, no to TMT, and others like it, from me.

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