Conceptualizing Hawai‘i’s Dormant Volcano and Astronomical Telescope Conflict

Observation or Desecration?

With commentaries by Jonathan Kay Kamakawiwo‘ole Osorio, Gordon Squires, and Samuel Wilder King II
Maunakea, a dormant volcano on Hawai‘i Island, is the scene of the latest conflict between Indigenous and Western interests.

Maunakea, a dormant volcano on Hawai‘i Island, is the scene of the latest conflict between Indigenous and Western interests.

JTSorrell/E+ via GettyImages

Maunakea, a dormant volcano on Hawai‘i’s “Big Island” (Hawai‘i Island), is the scene of the latest conflict between Indigenous and Western interests. The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), as planned, would tower 180 feet high—around the height of an 18-story building—on the slopes of a mountain that some consider Hawai‘i’s most sacred place. Maunakea is prime real estate for astronomical observation; 13 telescopes already sit there, though TMT would dwarf existing structures. As of this writing, protesters have successfully stalled the project for months despite it having legal approval to move forward, and the government has reportedly spent more than $10 million in its response. The following perspectives—from a Native Hawaiian elder, an attorney, and a TMT scientist—briefly illustrate the widely divergent viewpoints on even conceptualizing the issues at stake.

Premium Content For:
  • Current ABA Member
Join - Now