Help Save Mauna Kea from the Astronomy Industry

7 Jan


Many if not all indigenous peoples treasure sacred places – areas of the natural world in which the people live, which provide special meaning, refuge, and succor. Sacred places often serve as locations for (embodiments of, even) rites and rituals that strengthen the cultures of the people who value these places, and which serve as critical venues for cultivating their individual and collective identities. In some ways, the indigenous peoples are those places, and those places are the people.

For the San Carlos Apache Tribe, Oak Flat serves as that place, and industrial interests are threatening that place. For Hawaiians, one such sacred place is the Mauna Kea summit. Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world. It’s also a target for a form of exploitation that threatens the island’s ecosystem and the cultural, spiritual and religious survival of the Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians). In particular, Hawaiians and environmentalists oppose the Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT), and why the astronomy industry is determined to construct this 18 ½ – story building on Mauna Kea.


Mauna Kea is sacred to the Hawaiian people, who maintain a deep connection and spiritual tradition there that goes back millennia. “The TMT is an atrocity the size of Aloha Stadium,” said Kamahana Kealoha, a Hawaiian cultural practitioner. “It’s 19 stories tall, which is like building a sky-scraper on top of the mountain, a place that is being violated in many ways culturally, environmentally and spiritually.” Speaking as an organizer of those gathering to protest the groundbreaking for the observatory, Kealoha said, “We are in solidarity with individuals fighting against this project in U.S. courts, and those taking our struggle for de-occupation to the international courts. Others of us must protest this ground-breaking ceremony and intervene in hopes of stopping a desecration.”

The fact that industrial interests are driving the construction of a highly offensive, disruptive site like the TMT should come as no surprise. In fact, this is clearly part of the larger cultural appropriation endemic to the islands, and of the colonization of Hawai’i in general. Owen Lloyd of the Deep Green Resistance News Service recently interviewed Anne Keala Kelly on this topic.


The principle fresh water aquifer for Hawai’i Island is on Mauna Kea, yet there have been mercury spills on the summit; toxins such as Ethylene Glycol and Diesel are used there; chemicals used to clean telescope mirrors drain into the septic system, along with half a million gallons a year of human sewage that goes into septic tanks, cesspools and leach fields. “All of this poisonous activity at the source of our fresh water aquifer is unconscionable, and it threatens the life of the island,” said Kealoha. “But that’s only part of the story of this mountain’s environmental fragility. It’s also home to endangered species, such as the palila bird, which is endangered in part because of the damage to its critical habitat, which includes the mamane tree.”


Mauna Kea is designated as part of the Crown and Government lands of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Professor Williamson PC Chang, of the University of Hawai’i’s Richardson School of Law, said, “The United States bases its claim to the Crown and Government land of the Hawaiian Kingdom on the 1898 Joint Resolution of Congress, but that resolution has no power to convey the lands of Hawai’i to the U.S. It’s as if I wrote a deed saying you give your house to me and I accepted it. Nobody gave the land to the U.S., they just seized it.”


Construction of the TMT is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2015, so there is very little time to intervene. The TMT project is backed by the financial power of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the University of California system, the California Institute of Technology, and the astronomy industries of India, China, Japan and Canada. They have millions of dollars for public relations and to spin their story in the media.


We need your kokua (support) to make a film that expresses the collective kuleana as Hawaiians and non- Hawaiian allies in our cause for cultural, spiritual and physical survival in this homeland.

“Why The Mountain” will be a 30-minute documentary that explores why Hawaiians and environmentalists oppose the Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT), and why the astronomy industry is determined to construct this 18 ½ – story building on Mauna Kea. Through this film, we can reach out together to educate people around the world – via the internet, public access stations, social media platforms and community events – and stop the TMT.

Your donation will help make a film for Mauna Kea that takes a stand for the protection of all sacred places.


Hawaiians halt TMT ground-breaking ceremony: article at Deep Green Resistance Hawai’i

Consuming Hawai’i: interview at Deep Green Resistance News Service

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