By Kristine Kubat
It’s easy to buy into the argument that proponents of the TMT represent the future while protectors of Mauna Kea cling to the past. Those coming to the debate through recent news reports find worldly scientists backing the project and parochial religious fanatics trying to stop it. When more inquiring minds take to the Internet, they come up with reputable institutions dedicated to cutting edge science funding the TMT. Googling the “aloha aina movement,” they’re likely to end up down a rabbit hole where colonial powers illegally occupy a sovereign kingdom. TMT developers offer sleek computer renderings of a behemoth metallic structure; TMT thwarters carry little ti-leaf bundles they made by hand. Even the dichotomy that lands TMT advocates in the “for” category while pigeonholing those who stand for sacred sites as “against” makes the latter seem distastefully archaic. And, BTW (LOL) didn’t the sentimentality that things were sacred die out a long, long time ago?
Enough of what’s easy. . . let’s look at what’s right.
The answer to the question of which side in the current stand-off represents the future lies in a careful examination of how TMT developers got permission to build their telescope. . . an exercise that takes us back seven years, to a time when Senator Daniel K. Inouye still had an iron grip on Hawaii’s state government due to his ability to deliver large slabs of federal pork to a powerful subculture of engineering elitists and a unionized voting block. The TMT developers were assured that if the senator wanted the telescope there would be no stopping it. . . and so they (greatly encouraged by Inouye’s blessing and the ongoing, unanimous, omni-directional “amen” they heard to his gospel) invested in $400-an-hour lawyers, campaign contributions, carrots for “futuristic” Hawaiians, donations to local schools, and even upfront lease payments to the university.
When Hawaiians who hold the mountain as sacred and environmentalists who view its landscape as pristine started objecting to the project’s destructive impacts, developers were told opposition was futile. . . just as they were told to ignore the letter of the law (even when it agreed perfectly with such objections). . . just as they were told exactly how the process would unfold (which it then predictably did, albeit on a much longer timeframe than anyone ever imagined at no loss to the $400-an-hour lawyers).
Aided and abetted by their high-power attorneys and corrupt political connections, TMT developers got their permits over and above the objections of the disempowered volunteers who had correctly interpreted the law by paying their way through the process and cheating at every turn according to the time-honored tradition that has ruled Hawaii for generations and the world for millennia. If Senator Inouye hadn’t keeled over halfway through the process, high-payed union workers under the direction of engineering elitists would already be guiding impact drills seven stories into the mountainside.
But he did. And they aren’t. And whilst the money-worshipping remnants of Inouye’s vastly corrupt and crumbling empire struggle to preserve that highly profitable grip for the highly corruptible, a new future dawns where decisions about what will and what will not happen in Hawaii get made fairly, in the open, and in accordance with the letter of the law upheld by elected officials and appointed judges that no longer have to dance to the tune of “Oh, Danny Boy.”
Good riddance to that shameful past. Welcome to a future we can believe in. . . one we should fight for with every ounce of courage residing in our guts and our bones, or, better still, as the next generation inheriting the aloha aina movement with their evolved sensibilities implores, co-create with all the aloha we can muster.