Blog Post #2
For this week’s blog I want to write about traveling to Hawaii, since I will be visiting my grandma there in a month. My grandma lives on the island of Hawaii (also called the Big Island) in a small town called Waimea. While visiting paradise may not seem to hold much controversy, the Hawaiian islands have been a center of debate since being taken over by the U.S. over 120 years ago. Currently, one of the most controversial topics in Hawaii relates to the same issue: Land ownership between natives and non-natives. The Scientific American outlined the most current battle between native supporters/activists and the scientists who want to construct a new telescope on top of Mauna Kea, a place of spiritual worship to the native Hawaiian people.
While this topic is obviously important to the people that live in Hawaii, I think that it is also important to educate visitors to the island, not just on this single topic, but on being respectful to the island as a whole. Each year many tourists come to the islands to have a good time and site see, yet most of these people are not aware that the ground they walk on is still sacred to the native people of Hawaii.
Mauna Kea is the highest island mountain in the world and is one of the top astronomical viewing spots, which is why it was chosen as the site to build the Mauna Kea Observatory in 1967. The first telescopes were built on the second highest peak of the mountain because it was understood that the highest peak was holy ground. In 2011, the Board of Land and Natural Resources approved a permit that would allow a new 30 meter telescope to be built, except this time it would be on the portion of the mountain that is considered sacred ground. This lead to years of protest from the native Hawaiians and their supporters against the scientists who wanted to construct the telescope. Fortunately for those who are against the building of the telescope, Hawaii’s supreme court has decided that the permit for the telescope is invalid, meaning that there is now no set date for the telescope to be built.
I believe that the science behind the observatory is fascinating and ultimately important, but I also think that people need to consider the importance of tradition for native people. The high peaks of Mauna Kea is one of the more popular significant sites within the islands of Hawaii, however there are numerous areas that hold value to the people of Hawaii. I hope that having the telescope debate being brought to the public will some how show visitors to the islands that many of the areas they go to should be respected.