The Fight Over Mauna Kea
by Lawrence Downes, New York Times, June 25, 2015 (excerpts)
A political storm has enveloped the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s tallest mountain. Given the intensity of the forces colliding there, it is hard to see when and how the clouds will lift....
This is a conflict between big science and regular folks without a lot of money or corporate or political clout....
(WRONG. This is a conflict between OHA and UH over control of public land revenues. The protesters are puppets and the telescope is caught in the middle.--AW)
It’s hard to say that they speak for the majority of Native Hawaiians or Hawaii residents, and it’s hard to find a legal basis for their obstructionism – the project has gone by the book, and through many hearings and legal challenges, to get its approvals and permits in place....
Unhappily stuck in the middle of this mess is Hawaii’s mild-mannered, get-along governor, David Ige, who is not inspiring confidence by his distance from the conflict, which is happening on state land and is stalling a project of vital importance to his state (and to the planet, if you think about it).
The governor’s office issued a statement on Wednesday. It belongs in a writing textbook on “unfortunate use of the passive voice”:
“We are disappointed and concerned that large boulders were found in the roadway leading to the summit of Mauna Kea. This action is a serious and significant safety hazard and could put people at risk.
“Because of this, we are making an assessment to determine how to proceed.”
The statement also said that Mr. Ige was in Washington attending an energy forum, and in meetings. But that one-day forum was already over when the release was posted, and it was hard to determine on Thursday where he was and what he was doing about Mauna Kea.
Mr. Ige’s diffidence risks making things on Mauna Kea worse. Social media have blown the protests up, framing them as part of the global struggle of native peoples against hegemonic oppressors. The protesters have every right to feel emboldened – they have shown they can stop this project at will, by moving a few rocks in the road. (And in doing so, tampering with Mauna Kea’s pristine, highly fragile volcanic ecosystem — who are the desecraters, really?)
In a striking video and accompanying article, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald, a local paper, captures the tragic quality of the standoff. The paper reports that protesters presented ti-leaf leis, a symbol of affection and respect, to conservation officers of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, who, along with the county police, made 12 arrests at the scene on Wednesday.
One officer told the protesters he was sorry – when have you ever seen that?
“From myself, I apologize to you guys,” he said, according to the Tribune-Herald. “I hope you guys understand what I got to do. You may not accept it. I got to do my job. I’m really, really sorry.”
Read ... The New York Times