Moving forward on Mauna Kea

This coming Sunday July 28th more than a thousand residents are predicted to gather at Vidinha Stadium at 11:30 a.m., and march down Rice Street “in support of our kia’i standing on the front line for the protection of Mauna Kea”. The march will conclude on the grounds fronting the Historic County Building where there will be music and educational events.

To their great credit, organizers of the Kauai march are giving strict instructions to participants emphasizing the importance of maintaining Kapu Aloha.

A recent FB post stated:

“All ages welcome! Absolutely NO smoking, NO drinking, NO drugs, NO drama. This is not a parade or a party this is a demonstration of our rights and sovereignty as a people. Please come firmly grounded in Kapu Aloha! Please remind others constantly that everything we do is a reflection of our kia’i on the front line so help each other remember their place.”

How did we get here? How did we get to a place where residents are now marching and gathering on all islands, through-out the continent and even the world — in support of the protection of a mountain?

How did we get to a place where hundreds of Hawaii police officers dressed in full riot gear are arresting kupuna and carting them off in paddy wagons?

More importantly, how do we get out of this very dangerous situation before it blows up further? There is a path, but our leaders must first listen to their na’au and then take the hard stops required to make things right on the Mauna.

The roots of the conflict go back 50 years.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) stated in testimony to the Hawaii Supreme Court on October 30, 2018:

“Despite four state audits and generations of Native Hawaiians expressing concern about the threats to Maunakea, the state and the University of Hawaiʻi have continuously neglected their legal duties to adequately manage the mountain. Instead, they have consistently prioritized astronomical development at the expense of properly caring for Maunakea’s natural and cultural resources. After 50 years of empty promises to the mauna and our community, the state needs to be held accountable. Mauna Kea deserves better.”

A 2007 report by the TMT developers, commissioned to provide an independent evaluation stated: “Should TMT decide to pursue a Mauna Kea site, it will inherit the anger, fear, and great mistrust generated through previous telescope planning and siting failures and an accumulated disbelief that any additional projects, especially a physically imposing one like the TMT, can be done properly,” the report said. (Honolulu StarAdvertiser 7/23/19)

Our state government has mismanaged the telescope issue since inception.

Too many promises have been broken and too many concessions already have been made.

There are at least 13 other telescopes already on Mauna Kea. The TMT will be 18 stories tall, encompassing an area equivalent to 4 football fields. The cumulative impact of the new proposal and the existing development equates to a massive industrial complex – all situated on conservation land and a site most sacred to Hawaiians. Our government has yet to follow-through to ensure the decommissioning and removal of the 5 telescopes that are currently obsolete or scheduled to be closed (of the 13 total).

Being against the TMT does not translate to being “anti-science” or “anti astronomy”. Similarly, being against a hotel development on the beach that will generate jobs does not equate to being “against jobs”.

The science will not stop, neither will the exploration of the universe and all the incredible value that will be yielded from the telescope’s development. You can be sure this work will continue, whether on the Canary Islands where the developers already have secured permits, or elsewhere.

The TMT advocates will say “it’s not fair” and that the developers have “checked all the boxes and followed all the rules” and therefore entitled to build the 18 story structure situated on an area equivalent to 4 football fields.

The protectors will say (and rightfully so), “don’t talk to us about being fair”.

The University/TMT obtained a state permit to build on Mauna Kea. The Hawaiian demonstrators also have un-relinquished claims to the (un)ceded lands of Mauna Kea. The state permit did not address those claims. The courts have said that this is a “political question” that they cannot address. Here and now on the Mauna, without recourse to the court and without relief from the legislature, people have properly decided to press their claims over lands that matter most.

The lands upon which the TMT is proposed are state-owned public trust conservation lands, considered sacred by Hawaiians. Our state constitution states these lands “…shall be held by the State as a public trust for native Hawaiians and the general public.” There are no private property rights being violated.

In addition to the poor stewardship and broken promises directly associated with Mauna Kea…there is a vast litany of government negligence, ongoing mismanagement of public resources, and an abuse of the public trust – on all islands.

And all of this takes place against a backdrop of statewide political and governmental corruption that is in the news every day.

It is not surprising that people across the island chain, Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian alike, have had enough and consequently have drawn the proverbial line in the sand…on the Mauna.

Gov. David Ige is between that proverbial rock and a very, very, very hard place. The situation seems intractable, but it is not.

Attempting to arrest and detain the 2,000 people that are estimated to now be on the mountain is I would hope, not an option. Logistically there is no space for that many people, and unless detained most would return immediately to the Mauna, reinvigorated as to commitment and purpose.

There are children and kupuna present in large numbers. The trauma, all caught on camera and beamed around the world — would cause huge harm on many levels.

Mass arrests are not possible, and morally reprehensible. At least not possible in a sane and rational world.

The only responsible action by the governor at this point is to acknowledge the situation is untenable, that the state cannot ensure the safe passage of people or equipment, and at a minimum, call for a 90-day moratorium of activity on both sides.

The developers of the TMT should by now see the writing on the wall. They have a “plan B” and have already gotten their permits to develop the project in the Canary Islands. They were forewarned in their own 2007 study, yet they chose to move forward anyway. It is time for them to move on.

And it is well past time that those in positions of leadership in both the administration and at the legislature, rise to the occasion — unite behind calling an end to the TMT debacle and put forward meaningful initiatives that preserve and protect our public trust resources.

This is about much more than a single telescope being built on this particular mountain.


Gary Hooser formerly served in the Hawaii State Senate, where he was Majority Leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.

  1. Rev Dr. Malama July 24, 2019 5:50 am Reply

    It is with cautious optimism that I hold you to your new found solidarity with the Rightful Heirs of the Hawai’ian Kingdom and hope with all my heart that it is not to late to return to a Harmonious and Neutral independent country that is centered in god Consciousness….
    The challenge is to turn the tides of oppression of our Indigenous people and embrace the good Science at our disposal…..
    May we live to heal the Hawai’ian people and aina from all the abuse and neglect…

  2. Perplexed July 24, 2019 7:33 am Reply

    So maybe 1/7000 of Kauai’s population might demonstrate? The majority of Hawaiians are in favor of the TMT. Let’s not fall into the trap of denying scientific advancement in a situation where both sides can get what they want. We have too much anti-science sentiment already coming from the current administration and the right wing. This is not the best battle to fight.

  3. manawai July 24, 2019 8:22 am Reply

    The anti-science panderer is at it again!

  4. LMat July 24, 2019 11:07 am Reply

    Are TMT developers liable or responsible for the supposed “poor stewardship and broken promises” associated with the mountain? They ceded the fact that they will certainly inherit this stigma, but they have already pledged $2 MILLION A YEAR back to the community and the mountain, and they have already given back MILLIONS of dollars to Hawaii keiki and families (some of which may be halting progress on the mountain right now). These guys are so caught up in the frenzy that you are helping to fuel. So so so many other issues going on in Hawaii that can be protested against, none of which would benefit the community as much as TMT would. The benefits to the community and the mountain and the ENTIRE WORLD far outweigh any hurt feelings or religious notions of a small group of people.
    It goes beyond a telescope you say…? They’re not protesting science…? They’re protesting years of mistreatment and marginalization…? BS. Go show up at the state capitol. Go hold signs in Ige’s front yard. Storm the county buildings. Go vote for better elected officials. Demand corruption and greed be weeded out of our local government.
    This is nothing but trending social media fodder, not an attempt at halting an oil pipeline or even protesting pesticides for that matter. No wonder you’re on this bandwagon Gary.

    Also, since Gary abhors actual facts, here’s some to think about before jumping on that bandwagon too:

    The Hawai‘i Island New Knowledge (THINK) Fund was initiated in 2014 prior to the initial start of TMT construction with a commitment of $1 million per year for Hawai‘i Island STEM endeavors. The Hawai‘i Community Foundation (HCF) and the Pauahi Foundation administer the THINK Fund with scholarship, classroom, student and STEM programming initiatives with Pauahi focusing on Native Hawaiians recipients.

    To date, TMT has funded $5,130,924.85 to the THINK Fund initiative (THINK Fund at HCF $3,848,193.64 and THINK Fund at Pauahi Foundation $1,282,731.21) for Hawai‘i Island students, their families and teachers.

    TMT provides a number of economic benefits for Hawaii, including:
    Paying $300,000 annual lease rent, which will increase incrementally to $1 million when it’s operational; 80% goes to the Office of Mauna Kea Management, for the stewardship of Mauna Kea, and 20% to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

    Creating 300 local and specialized union construction jobs during 8- to 10-year construction phase and employing 140 staff when operational.

    Expending $26 million annually in observatory operations.

    TMT is committed to hiring locally as much as possible and using local businesses for support services.

  5. Amused July 24, 2019 12:28 pm Reply

    Oh, please. Now Hooser is an expert on Hawaiian history, rights and issues? He’s got the solution to the stand off at Mauna Kea? What an ego! What an opportunistic guy, just trying to latch onto the latest cause d’jour in Hawaii. Well I hate to break the news, but nobody really cares if 1000 people on Kauai march against TMT — except those who participate. It won’t have the slightest effect on the situation or the outcome. As for Hooser, a career politician, you are part of the problem! Take some responsibility for your own inaction in addressing the real issues that were facing Hawaii when you were in the Senate and on the council. You didn’t do anything.

  6. ARF July 24, 2019 2:37 pm Reply

    I could’ve swore there was news a couple of weeks ago about an uptick in seismic activity on the mountain..? Not heard anything new.
    Why won’t the Governor put the telescope to a public vote?
    These control freaks pander for your vote, then tell you what’s going to happen…
    There’s another sacred mountain on the other side of the world trashed by non-caring people intent on some personal feat.
    ALL of nature is sacred. People are not. The best any culture can do is to take care of the sacred environment, and not let corporations poison it with chemicals or they themselves act without regard to the rights of animals and disrespect their own land.
    Turn off the TV hypnosis and pray. Gaze upon Gods creativity and you will be rewarded. Every day do the best you can!

  7. Grax McCoar July 25, 2019 10:04 am Reply

    Who owns the structures – telescopes, plumbing, electric lines etc – on Mauna Kea, at and delivering to the telescope site? In particular, are any of them government agencies, especially USA?

  8. ARF July 25, 2019 12:49 pm Reply
    Read down the charts..last 30 days.

  9. Dt July 25, 2019 8:32 pm Reply

    “there is a vast litany of government negligence, ongoing mismanagement of public resources, and an abuse of the public trust –”
    You don’t say! Wow, who would have knew that they waste 99 cents on the dollar. At least they didn’t spend too much on that train on Oahu.

  10. Boots on the Ground July 26, 2019 8:02 am Reply

    No one has mentioned the use of the water shed underneath the planned telescope for a nuclear reactor that is supposed to provide electricity for the 400 square yards complex or the designers property/home which looks at the telescope.

  11. W(V)ai July 26, 2019 8:06 am Reply

    A couple million $, this is a 30 billion $ telescope. Which may have a nuclear reactor!!! Lets do the math people, about anti-science, it’s about disrespect.

  12. Boots on the Ground July 26, 2019 8:28 am Reply

    Millions to Billions!?!? What about the nuclear reactor that is going to power this facility?!?!

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