What can we learn from Mauna Kea resistance?

Before you call it the battle between science and ignorance, Think again.

In the last few weeks, ‘kia’i mauna’ have been protesting the development of infrastructure of TMT (Thirty Meter Telescope). This Telescope is going to be built on one of the most sacred summits of Hawaii.

Mauna Kea is a paradise for astronomers. The great sky with the magnificent ‘seeing’ parameter makes it one of the final destinations for ground-based telescopes.

But this mountain is also the holy place for people of the region. For them, this mountain is not just another height on earth. It is a spiritual force and part of their daily life.

So, when the scientists decided to make their observatories on top of these mountains, the clash seems inevitable.

In the last few days, observers outside of the scientific community and Hawaiian indigenous also joined the protest. Celebrities and influencers raised their voices and, in this situation, it is easy to naming name.

Demonstrators gather to block a road at the base of Hawaii’s tallest mountain, Monday, July 15, 2019, in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, to protest the construction of a giant telescope on land that some Native Hawaiians consider sacred. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

One side calls the TMT project a sample of ‘Scientific Imperialism’ and the other side describe the challenge as a clash between science and superstition of even light and dark.

This is wrong.

The situation in Mauna Kea and in many other similar projects is coming from a lack of understanding and lack of negotiations. Science community ignores the cultural life of the local community and thinks that their satisfactions can be bought by financial reimbursement and the promise of better jobs and better economy. But for the people there the story is not about money – or just about money. It is about how they are looking to the world. How they have been gathering their knowledge and how they are interacting with nature.

For them, nature is not an object to utilize.

For them, mountains and seas and jungles are part of the network of life. And no matter if you have the court or the law enforcement in your side, as long as an understanding has not been reached, the project couldn’t be sustained.

The door for the common understanding is open. We just have to remember that we need to find a common language and a common playground and define the rule of the game that both sides agree upon them.

We can’t argue from the point of view of scientific values while the other side is talking about the disrespect to the mother nature and its spiritual existence.

The good news is the scientific society is coming to the realization that they should take the cultural impacts of their project more seriously. But still, there is a long way to go.  

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