Native Hawaiians Continue to Protest Plan to Build Telescope on Sacred Land
By Jessica Corbett
A week after construction was scheduled to resume on a long-delayed $1.4 billion telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea — a dormant volcano on Hawaii's Big Island — thousands of Native Hawaiians who consider the mountain sacred continued to protest the planned observatory.
Explaining that the 13,796-foot mountain is considered home to Native Hawaiian deities, Kaho'okahi Kanuha — a leader of the kia'i, or protectors, who have set up camp on the mountain — told CNN Sunday that "it is without a doubt one of our most sacred places in all of Hawaii."
Kanuha said that Mauna Kea — considered by astronomers one of the best places in the world to observe the skies — already has been "desecrated" by 13 other telescopes and with the ongoing Indigenous-led movement against the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).
"This is our last stand. We are taking a stand not only to protect our mauna and aina — our land — who we have a genealogical connection to," Kanuha explained. "We are fighting to protect it because we know if we cannot stop this, there is not very much we can fight for or protect."
Pua Case, an Indigenous organizer and one of the Mauna Kea protectors, appeared on Democracy Now! Monday to discuss why thousands of Native Hawaiians and other critics of the project are protesting.
"For the last 10 years, we have held off the project of the building of an 18-story telescope on the top of our mountain, near the summit, on a pristine area called the northern plateau, over our water aquifer and the source of water for much of this island," said Case.
"We are making a stand as not just Native people and not just the local community, but really a worldwide community, because there are so many similarities," she added. "There are Native people everywhere around the world standing for their mountaintops, for their waters, for their land bases, their oceans, and their life ways. We are no different than them."
Mauna Kea is one of the most sacred mountains to the Hawaiian people. Scientists and investors are working to build a Thirty Meter Telescope atop it. But many Hawaiians haven't consented to the construction. We spoke to frontline kia'i (protectors) about why they're standing. pic.twitter.com/R4Z3kYe6vM— AJ+ (@ajplus) July 22, 2019
A project of the TMT International Observatory — a partnership between University of California and the California Institute of Technology, as well as institutions in Canada, China, India and Japan — the controversial telescope would be the largest in the Northern Hemisphere.
The protests against the telescope were triggered by Democratic Gov. David Ige's announcement on July 10 that an access road would be closed to transport equipment up the mountain.
Last Wednesday, after police in riot gear failed to clear protectors from the access road despite arresting 33 kūpuna — elders — and one caregiver, Ige issued an emergency proclamation that expanded law enforcement's power to close off parts of the mountain and manage protests.
On the mountain Sunday, activists "scheduled a variety of workshops and training sessions throughout the day," according to Honolulu's Star-Advertiser. "Some of those workshops were aimed at sharing Hawaiian culture, although others were meant for practicing 'nonviolent direct action' in the event that law officers showed up."
Ige raised concerns by sending some members of the National Guard to the mountain last week, but the governor has insisted they are focused on transportation and duties other than managing protests and that, as of Friday, he does not plan to call in any more troops.
Though the public is right now assured by @GovHawaii that Hawai‘i National Guard sent to #Maunakea are unarmed and will assist only with transportation and road closures, their presence creates a concern for civil rights...— ACLU of Hawaii (@acluhawaii) July 20, 2019
The demonstrations haven't been contained to the mountain or the Big Island. On Oahu, KHON 2 reported, about 2,000 people "marched two miles on Sunday from Fort DeRussy to the Honolulu zoo" to protest the telescope.
Solidarity actions have also popped up around the country, and as of press time, a Change.org petition demanding "the immediate halt to the construction of the TMT" was fewer than 1,000 signatures away from reaching its goal of 150,000.
More pics: https://t.co/T4qdoP3wfE#KuKiaiMauna - #ProtectMaunaKea Solidarity Action— Melissa Ponder (@melponder) July 22, 2019
Salish Coast (Lakewood, WA)
July 21, 2019
Sign this petition (Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation : The immediate halt to the construction of the TMT on Mauna Kea) https://t.co/bKpQPJyZ61 pic.twitter.com/LgPKRszsiH
An open letter that has been signed by astronomers doesn't explicitly denounce the project, but calls into question how the government and the partnership behind the telescope have handled opposition.
However, the letter does "call upon the astronomy community to recognize the broader historical context of this conflict, and to denounce the criminalization of the protectors on Mauna Kea" as well as "urge the TMT Collaboration and the government of Hawaii to desist from further arresting or charging protectors, and to remove military and law enforcement personnel from the summit."
On Monday morning, Democratic Lt. Gov. Josh Green became the highest ranking public official in the state to visit the mountain amid the protests. He told reporters, "I came here today to listen and to respect people."
"I'm here to make sure people are OK," said Green, a physician who arrived at Mauna Kea after an emergency room shift. "I'm not here for a political statement."
Green's visit came after Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim went to the access road over the weekend. Kim told a crowd there that "we all see different things, but I'll tell you how I feel: For the first time in my 80 years of life, I see a group of people finally coming together to feel proud of being who you are, because you are the most beautiful, warmest, givingest people on God's Earth."
Despite the local opposition, TMT International Observatory spokesperson Scott Ishikawa told Hawaii News Now on Sunday that "Mauna Kea continues to be the preferred site for TMT."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
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