Column: TMT supporters must be patient, but start taking action
Like most Hawaiians, I support the Thirty Meter Telescope. It is clear at this point, however, that the protesters at Mauna Kea will not be moving any time soon.
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Like most Hawaiians, I support the Thirty Meter Telescope. It is clear at this point, however, that the protesters at Mauna Kea will not be moving any time soon. We must therefore be patient. That does not mean TMT supporters should be idle. But what can we do?
First and foremost, we can all show up to the rally that Imua TMT is organizing at the state Capitol on Thursday, at 4:30 p.m. Bring your family. Bring a sign. Shirts will be provided. If you are on the neighbor islands, rally at your city hall. Post in the pro-TMT Facebook groups if you need help coordinating. The Pro-TMT Facebook groups like We Support TMT, Yes to Thirty Meter Telescope, Kanaka for TMT, We Are Laniakea-Hawai’i Island For TMT, and Imua TMT can coordinate more public appearances.
Supporters can also show up on the mountain. So far supporters have heeded the government’s request to let law enforcement do its job. Unfortunately, this has left the protesters standing on the mountain acting as if they are the only voice for the Hawaiian people. If supporters can get to the mountain and stand next to the barricade with a “Hawaii Supports TMT” sign, it would show that there is real support for the project and earn more media for the supporters. The supporters have as much right to be there as the protesters.
Second, we can write letters to the governor, state representatives and county representatives on the Big Island to express support for TMT. The letters can point out that the TMT is an excellent project that has been extensively vetted, as shown in the state Board of Land and Natural Resources’ second 300-odd page Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (FOF/COL), and emphasize that our laws need to be enforced and express our general support for the governor.
We can also sign Mailani Neal’s “We Support TMT” petition and share it online. Even though polls show that the vast majority of Hawaii supports the TMT, politicians need to see that there is real energy behind those numbers. Otherwise, they will think our community likes the idea of TMT but doesn’t really care.
Third, we can get on social media and push back on the outright lies being peddled about the project. There are posts out there about how aquifers may be damaged, which is completely false (see paragraphs 861-888 in the FOF/COL). One outrageous meme asserts that the TMT is nuclear powered (I cannot believe I have to say this, but it will not be). This kind of deception is corrosive to our democracy and, unfortunately, it must be addressed head on.
Fourth, we can refocus on the positive aspects of our shared culture, instead of embracing divisive victimhood and historical revisionism (I recommend starting with “Hawaiian Sovereignty: Do the Facts Matter?” for an accurate history). The cultural claims of those who practice their religious beliefs on Mauna Kea deserve respect, recognition and accommodation. TMT has, in fact, recognized this and taken numerous steps to address these issues (FOF/COL paragraphs 324, 322-347).
What is objectionable is the attempt by protesters to hijack Hawaiian identity and turn it into a symbol of victimization and opposition to “foreigners” in Hawaii, accusing our tourist industry of “prostituting” Hawaiian culture. It is offensive to me, as a native son of Hawaii, because the true story of our people is much more inspirational. It is about self-reliance and daring to navigate over the horizon by the stars. It is about the confidence to integrate beneficial foreign ideas into our society. It is about having the wisdom to nurture and share the aloha spirit, and the charisma to spread aloha throughout the world.
We need to save the next generation from a self-defeating identity based on victimhood and show our children that there is a brighter future amongst the stars.
Samuel Wilder King II, a Native Hawaiian attorney practicing in Honolulu who has clerked for a Hawaii Supreme Court justice, is a father to two boys.