Hawaiian Volcano controversy: Natural beauty and modern science

Submitted by Cullen Salinas-Zackuse

The Scenic view and beauty of the Aloha State is renowned around the world. Known for the natural beauty including sands, blue oceans, tropical plants, and enormous volcanoes. Hawaii is one of the most popular tourist spots on earth. It is a place where people leave their everyday lives and relax and enjoy the natural world at its best. Before It was a tourist spot and became the 50th State of The United States of America It was inhabited by the Native Hawaiians who descend from the Polynesian Islands. 

The Native Hawaiians had their own beliefs, culture, language, traditions, and sacred land that they inherited from their ancestors before them. These beliefs and sacred lands cause controversy between them and the modern world. Anything that is newly created on their land that is being acquired not through the Native People’s but USA Federal government and state. This creates controversy between the Native Hawaiians and The State of Hawaii due to the fact there is a different belief between both parties. Today the controversy is that if The University of Hawaii will be approved to build the largest Telescope in the northern hemisphere on the Sacred site of the Volcano Mauna Kea. This telescope is proposed to be “34,0000 square feet and 18 stories tall”.(Saks, 2015) 

The Thirty meter telescope will be placed to find new scientific discovery in the stars. According to the PBS documentary about the controversy of the Thirty meter Telescope the main goal would be to improve our views on the planets and the stars. There is also hope to discover if we are the only humanoid beings in the galaxy. The Thirty Meter Telescope is proposed to discover more knowledge on dark matter and what we can harvest and create with dark matter.(PBS,2016) 

Although these are essential to possibly advance science and lead to scientific discovery, “Native Hawaiians and Environmentalist say that the proliferation of observatories on Mauna Kea has despoiled a sacred mountain and interfered with Native Hawaiian Cultural practices that are protected by state law”.(Overbye,2017) For this reason the Telescope should not be built on top of Mauna Kea. This will create problems in the future due to the location being sacred and one of the few places left Native Hawaiians have to practice the culture and traditions. Science should not be a justifiable reason to build over shrines and graves of important kings and deities of the Native Hawaiians. 

The Volcano of Mauna Kea is said to be where the Native Hawaiians Origin Story takes place. The birth of creation the place they came from. The Native Hawaiians hold this place in high regards and see the sacredness in the place more than anybody could understand. Imagine building an enormous Telescope on top or near a sacred place such as the dome rock of Jerusalem where muslims pray and do many religious acts. This also would be controversial and many would be against that due to the sacredness of this area. That is not very different from building on top of Mauna Kea. 

To Native Hawaiians Sacredness is not merely a concept or label, it is a lived experience of oneness and connectedness with the natural and spiritual worlds.(Herman,2015) The Native Hawaiians are willing to stand the frontline and protest to protect the sacredness of the volcano. The Native Hawaiians take this very seriously, protesters blockaded the road up the mountain preventing equipment and construction workers from passing.(PBS) This should be taken into consideration as well as how it will impact the beauty and aesthetic value of having a volcano standing tall for everyone to enjoy. 

The volcano of Mauna kea is for everyone’s viewing pleasure and there’s something about nature that brings us closer to earth and ourselves as people. As much as science has brought us to where we are today there are also impacts it had on us that will take years to fix. Since there are already observatories on the other side of Mauna Kea the people of Hawaii already saw what 30 years of Astronomy’s “adverse effect” on nature and native culture on the mountains. 

The Native Hawaiians do not want to see how more infrastructure will impact their homeland. The beliefs and traditions that they hold strong to tell them that this place must be protected. The shines that they pray and do ceremonies should be untouched and live on for the next generation. There must not be anymore cultural genocide and their shouldn’t be anymore taken away from these Hawaiian people who want to protect what means most to them as there roots were planted there for years and hopefully years to come.