We Are Mauna Kea: The Fight for the Soul of Hawaii
This past Wednesday, the Myer clan loaded in our truck and drove to the famous Mauna Kea, its summit rising a surprising 13,802 feet above sea level. The majority of it is underwater though and when measured from the sea floor, it beats Mt. Everest as the tallest mountain in the world (33,000 ft).
However, we did not make the trek to tour the dormant volcano. In fact, nobody can do so right now because the access road has been mired with protests since we arrived. So instead, we decided to take this amazing Worldschooling opportunity to visit those fighting for the mountain. We wanted to witness, support and participate in their act of peaceful civil disobedience. It is a perfect mix of American and Hawaiian: first amendment rights done in a very Hawaiian aloha manner. The police presence is there, but it is remarkably peaceful and respectful on all sides.
We ask that you learn about the Mauna Kea fight against the TMT. Below are our perspectives after witnessing this moment in Hawaiian history.
As some of you may have heard there is a “protest” on the Big Island of Hawaii regarding the construction of a large telescope (30 meters in diameter) aka TMT on Mauna Kea.
The protesters see themselves as protectors of their land. The Mauna (mountain in Hawaiian) is a sacred place for Hawaiians and their spiritual belief system. The Mauna is where creation started in the spiritual beliefs of Hawaiians: They are the mountain. This isn’t a fight against science or not believing in science; it is a fight against the deluding of traditions and beliefs. It is not even about the telescope. It’s about taking back what was taken from them and many native people around the globe when settlers or missionaries or governments came to their land. It is a fight for the soul of Hawaii. It is to show others that they can be protectors of the land and sacred beliefs in a positive and loving way.
Kapu Aloha is a state of love and respect. That is the belief of the protectors. When my family and I visited this past week, we could feel the love and respect that they showed every person there and the land that they are on. We could feel their beliefs in the way they expressed themselves about the Mauna. In the passion in their dances and prayers to the Mauna. We joined in with some of the hulas and chants. The emotion could be felt when standing with them. And stand with them we do.
I believe that this fight will push the direction of Hawaii one way or another. Mainlanders (which I am one of) come to Hawaii for the vacation and relaxed Aloha Spirit. Much like how the TMT will impact the environment, I think that building the TMT will impact that Aloha Spirit. It will start to dim the light and happiness that we feel from the islands. Having been here now for seven weeks, I have fallen in love with the Aloha Spirit and how most Hawaiians will help a stranger even if it disrupts their day. How they give Alohas as you walk by, or the smiles of the children that frequent the beaches. It’s refreshing compared to where I come from and how we treat people in general on the mainland. I do not want to see that spirit dim. Putting a giant telescope on the Mauna is telling Hawaiians that their beliefs and sacred lands are not important, that science is more important than community and beliefs. Their beliefs, just like our beliefs, are important, and we all should support them in the protection of their land, culture, spirituality and the soul of Hawaii.
(Written in my journal upon return from our day on the mauna.)
We are home from the mauna: Mauna Kea. More specifically, we were at Pu’uhuluhulu, at the base of the mountain, where the “Protectors” (not protestors) are camping out to stop construction of the TMT (aka The Monster Telescope) on their sacred land. The Hawaiians’ last stand.
I shower to wash the grime, sweat and sunscreen off of me, but I hesitate to “wash the mountain off of me.”
As Lucas so simply and profoundly noted on the car ride home, “It was less of a protest and more of a worship.” The dormant Mauna Kea volcano is the most sacred mountain to the Hawaiians. It is the source of all creation and the portal to heaven. They have already lost so much of their land (aina)—and even much of Mauna Kea to western science. And yet, they are being “asked” to give away more. Or worse, there is no asking; it is being taken by outside interests. Again.
But at the protest/worship we witnessed today, the kupuna (elder) reminds us that we are all of it. I am the mauna. The mauna is me. I am the tree and the lava and the clouds. I am you. You are me. This is what Kapu Aloha teaches us. So hum. I am that.
So I sit with the mountain cinder in my hair and I remember. I turn on my beloved Hawaiian songs and try to let the mauna and her protectors sink into my being. What did we really witness today? There was a geology lesson—for the brain. There was hula—for the body. There was “talk story”—for the heart. And there was chanting—for the soul.
After all, this is not about a telescope. It is about the soul of an island.
May we do the right thing.
Since this was his classroom work for the day, Lucas recorded his thoughts when we got home. Here is his initial vlog. (Fully edited video to follow next week.)