There’s another battle playing out on the islands of Hawaii. This time it’s not over GMOs but a telescope on the highest mountain in the Pacific Ocean. Hawaiians are battling the construction of a new Thirty Meter Telescope that will be the biggest in the world (other than one currently being built in Chile) and will enable astronomers by 2023 to detect light from the earliest stars and galaxies, analyze the formation of planets around nearby stars, and test many of the fundamental laws of physics.
For thousands of years Mauna Kea on the Big Island has been considered realm of the gods and forbidden to all but the highest chiefs and priests. Because of this it is protected under the Historical Preservation Act for its significance to Hawaiian culture. Today it is home to 13 international observatories and a destination for thousands of tourists thanks to its altitude and geographical isolation from light pollution. When I first heard about it I thought that this could be a big opportunity for the advancement of humanity’s understanding of the cosmos and I envisioned ancient Polynesian explorers (who used the stars to navigate their voyaging canoes across the world) being supportive and even feeling a sense of pride that their island was serving as a connection to the heavens. But after a long conversation with my good friend and Big Island native Cliff Kapono (great surfer and scientist earning his PhD in Chemistry at UCSD) I was reminded of a different side of the story. In my talks with him and during research ofor my new film Island Earth, I’ve learned just how advanced traditional Hawaiian culture was pre-Western contact. I’ve also come to understand just how arrogant, dismissive, exploitive, and destructive Western society has been over the centuries to cultures we’ve economically enslaved in the name of religious self-righteousness and economic “progress.” Through this lens it is understandable why Hawaiians and other indigenous peoples could grow skeptical to any modern visions of progress. Any of you who don’t follow this chain of logic I suggest you read or look up “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” by John Perkins to learn how Western nations continue their doctrines of imperialism today.
Conflicts like these offer amazing opportunities to understand each other, acknowledge old wounds and continue the process of healing for a more united future. It’s going to take an equal partnership between indigenous wisdoms and modern science (think of the ancient heart meeting the modern mind) to sustain humanity even if it hinders our immediate perception of progress and quest for knowledge.
Sign the petition to halt the construction of the telescope, 35,000 more signatures are needed to meet their goal so spread the word- https://www.change.org/p/governor-david-y-ige-stop-tmt-construction-and-arrests-of-mauna-kea-protectors