Essay about Thirty Meter Telescope Protests in Hawaii

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Table of contents

  1. Socio-Historical Analysis
  2. Plans of Action
  3. Conclusion

The scope of the problem I am going to discuss is on the issue that is happening in Hawaii about the building of the TMT. This social problem is becoming a big headline in Hawaii news because the protesters have blocked builders from proceeding with the building of the TMT. The TMT (Thirty Meter Telescope) is a project to build the biggest telescope and put on top of Mauna Kea. However, there is already 13 telescopes on top of Mauna Kea and Native Hawaiians have acted to stop this by making a resistance at the bottom of the mountain entrance. This problem has affected people globally because there are people that want the telescope to broaden the knowledge of astronomy, but the protesters have stopped that from happening. Meghan Miner Murray (2019) states: “Several hundred Native Hawaiians and Hawaiian rights activists have been camped for almost a week at the foot of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, blocking the only road to the top of the mountain. That has kept construction equipment from reaching the summit to start building a $1.4 billion scientific project, the Thirty Meter Telescope, and it has forced other scientific facilities at the summit to shut down” (Murray, 2019).

The shutdown of the facilities has caused many issues within the local community of Hawaii because university students depend on the information from these facilities. Many university students that study astronomy depend on the information of these telescopes and they feel that it is hard to do their finding without the help of the telescope information. Murry states: “The Thirty Meter Telescope, designed by a consortium of universities and research institutes in the United States, Canada, China, India and Japan, will use an immense mirror and some of the world’s largest sensors to peer deep into the universe” (Murray, 2019).

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The data that I found striking was that there are many countries that want this telescope to be built because it can provide the world information about the universe. It can be spread to other countries the knowledge they have learned about the universe and the telescope can provide that. However, this isn’t just not about not wanting the telescope, but the issue of indigenous land and the Native Hawaiians resistance on stopping the damaging of their sacred land. It just not those that are in Hawaii that should care about the issue, but other communities as well. The broader community should care for this issue is because Mauna Kea being sacred to Native Hawaiians is part of their culture. There are many native elders that feel that the mountain should not be touched anymore because there has already been telescoped built there. Murray states: “The problem is not the device, but the location. The mountain, called Mauna O Wakea by Native Hawaiians, is the tallest in the islands, and its summit is considered sacred in traditional Hawaiian culture — the place where the sky god, Wakea, met with Papa Hanau Moku, the earth goddess, leading to the creation of the islands” (Murray, 2019).

The mountain is part of their native culture and that is what the protesters are fighting for the protection of their culture to not let them build the telescope to damage this sacred land of theirs. We all love our cultures and background and we don’t want others to come in and destroy our way of life. This is what they are fighting for and we all should learn from them because they care a lot of their culture and their ancestors.

This problem issue is outside of my community but this relates to an issue that happened to my people during the Secret War in Laos. My family had their homes destroyed and had to flee to another county because of the oppression of the Laotian government. They killed many of my people and those that were lucky to have made it are still sad about those they have lost. My standpoint is on this issue is that I know what they are fighting for and I agree that they should keep up with their resistance. I agree also that the problem isn’t the telescope, but the intrusion of destroying sacred land from people.

Socio-Historical Analysis

James S. Coleman’s book ‘Foundations of Social Theory’, talks about the theoretical foundation for linking the behavior of individuals to organizational behavior and then to society as a whole. He connected his theory into the notion of collective action. As stated by Keith Dowding (2013) about collective action: “Collective action occurs when a number of people work together to achieve some common objective. However, it has long been recognized that individuals often fail to work together to achieve some group goal or common good” (Dowding, 2013).

This addresses the issue because of how many Native Hawaiians have come together to protest against the dangers of destroying land to build the telescope. This was the collective action because many of them had a common goal to stop this from happening. They banned together to get their word out that they don’t want this to happened. However, this issue on using native land was far before this ordeal. Hawaii was separate from the United States till it was oppressed by this country to make it the 50th state. Native Hawaiians went through an oppression from the United State and is still under that oppression.

The problem with oppression in Hawaii started in the 1778 when Captain James Cook set foot onto Hawaii for the first time. However, he was killed during a confrontation with Native Hawaiians. Native Hawaiians were exposed to different issues that caused their numbers to decline. This was the reason why there were only a little of Native Hawaiians during those years due to problems they have faced. (2007) stated: “In 1820, the first Christian missionaries arrived. Shortly afterward, Western traders and whalers came to the islands, bringing with them diseases that devastated the native Hawaiian population. Hawaiians had numbered about 300,000, when Cook arrived. By 1853, the native population was down to 70,000” (Smithsonian, 2007).

The Native Hawaiians have been oppression for centuries and now in the present they are also being oppressed because of this notion of anyone can come to their land and use it for whatever they see fit. The United State has been a problem with the Native Hawaiians and they want to change that by protecting their land from the telescope being built. Native Hawaiians have further experience issues within modern day society as well. Trask Haunani-Kay (2000) states: “Modern Hawaii, like its colonial overlord, the United States of America, is a settler society. Our Hawaiian people, now but a remnant of the nearly one million Natives present at contact with the West in the 18th century, live at the margins of our island society. Less than 20% of the current population in Hawaii, our Native people have suffered all the familiar horrors of contact: massive depopulation, landlessness, Christianization, economic and political marginalization, institutionalization in the military and the prisons, poor health and educational profiles, increasing diaspora” (Haunani-Kay, 2000).

The socio-political impact of the Native Hawaiians is that the United States being a settle society has imbedded their political and society nature into the Native Hawaiian communities. Furthermore, Haunani-Kay stated that in 1986 their language was banned and the only language they were able to speak was English. Also, the islands in Hawaii started to have military bases around their waters and island. The socio-political issues that author Haunani-Kay has stated in her article is that Hawaii was changed to fit the American way. This oppression that Native Hawaiians are enduring is causing them to fight back to take back what they have lost. This is why they are going to protest against the building of the TMT. The Native Hawaiians are fighting top take back their sovereignty and culture. Author Brittney Lyte (2017) states: “Decimated in number after the Western world first occupied the archipelago and later feeling marginalized within the federal bureaucracy, Native Hawaiians are now pushing hard to create their own nation, seeking the type of self-governance Native American tribes across the country established long ago” (Lyte, 2017).

The article that Lyte published further discuss the issues on making a new law to take back what is there. Groups that consisted of police officers, politicians, fast food workers, and farmer address a new constitution to help establish a law to protect Native Hawaiians. This issue affects every Native Hawaiian because they want a change in society and they want to take back what the United States have taken away from the. Furthermore, the Native Hawaiians have started to teach the younger generation about their lost culture and give hope to the future of Native Hawaiians.

The movement that the Native Hawaiians started was the Hawaiian sovereignty movement and this movement started in the mid-20th century and is still present today. Since Native Hawaiians have faced prejudice and political exclusion due to the United States the Native Hawaiians started this movement to get their freedom back. Author Amanda Mae Kahealani Pacheco (2009) states: “The participants and supporters of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement want some form of independence or self-rule; they want native communities to rise up and work towards the common goal of nationhood; and, perhaps most of all, they want to live in a place where native Hawaiians have been given, as much as possible, their way of life back, as it once was before colonization, assimilation, and acculturation took over their identities” (Pacheco, 2009).

This plant to action relates to my kind of proposed action plan because I believe that those that groups were oppressed should get together to talk about the issues at hand. The protester that are at the entrance of Mauna Kea have got support from many people and they have supported their cause. Even major actors such as Jason Momoa and Dwyane Johnson have protest against this issue. This protest has banned together many different groups from around the world to support the cause for not allowing for destruction of the mountain. I know the Hmong community have faced these kinds of issues when General Vang Pao was on trial and many members of my community went to support him. This was because he was a very important person in our community and we did what we can to support him during this time. Therefore, this action planned we should move forward and support those that are trying to protect their sacred land. I know that science is good for everyone to learn and study, but it doesn’t mean that these scientists should listen to the Natives living on the islands. Many may disagree with my action plan, but it will only work if there is a sort of agreement with the Natives and science communities. However, there seem to be no agreement yet on this issue. There may be a way for both sides to come to an agreement.

Plans of Action

A clear plan of action for this to work is that the protesters must wait 2 years to block the builders from entering the site of the mountain to start building the TMT. However, if the protesters give up and leave the area then the builders are able to build the TMT. This is an issue for the protesters because not many people would leave their homes and job to help protest for that long. Many people start to lose interest in the rally and start to give up. However, I think a good plan to action is to take down the other telescope and just have one giant one. Scientist claim that the TMT is going to be their most powerful telescope then what is the need for the others. If there can be an agreement on taking down the other telescope and just having the TMT then that should be a reasonable plan of action. Author Kristen Lam (2019) states: “Scientists have a different take: Mauna Kea's climate and location make it an ideal site for astronomy, and this telescope could play a critical role in helping to find signs of extraterrestrial life” (Lam,2019)

Lam talked about how the scientist have a different take on the idea because Mauna Kea has a great location site for the telescope, but aren’t there other areas better than Mauna Kea. I feel like the United State is just using Hawaii because they already have 13 telescopes located on Mauna Kea already. There shouldn’t be an issue if the scientist is able to look for another area. Also, many of the information doesn’t seem to benefit many because of the notion that it will only benefit those in the astronomy community and no other. Many people within the astronomy field may oppose this because as stated Mauna Kea is one of the best spots for it. Furthermore, other countries may impact my call to action because of the information they are wanting from this TMT. Rafi Letzer (2019) stated from Brent Tully, who is part of the TMT project: “He acknowledged that Hawaiians ‘have a legitimate grievance with the loss of their independence as a sovereign nation’, adding that it's unfortunate that the TMT has become ‘embroiled in the sovereignty issue’. The construction became a sovereignty issue because it touches on who makes decisions regarding sacred Hawaiian land” (Letzer. 2019). Brent Tully knows how they Native Hawaiians felt on the issue of their sacred land being destroyed, so they do they still need to push for the building of the telescope.

Lastly, the call for solidarity is that these protesters need as much help as they can get to support their cause. Many people have traveled far and wide to come support them with food and water. Others have made it so to join them in their cause to stop builders from coming to the site. Furthermore, the protesters are protesting peacefully without violence, but many have got arrested for the stand. Many elders in the Native Hawaiian communities were put into jail for just protesting with others. I know that the Native Hawaiian call to action have already starting to succeed because of the fact that they feel they need to defend their heritage and culture.


The importance of my social problem is the issue with taking away people’s land and culture. Native Hawaiians have gone through so much for many years and are in a constant battle with regaining their sovereignty from the oppressors. The United States taking over Hawaii during the 1880’s has caused so much harm to the Native Hawaiian homeland. The Native Hawaiians just want to be able to be at peace with their culture and don’t want to lose it. The United State conquering Hawaii has made it to the point where English is their only language they speak and the cant speak their native language. Therefore, the protesters at the entrance of Mauna Kea are doing their best to defend their sacred land from the oppressors. They want to keep their land beautiful and away from danger. Therefore, building the TMT would mean they have failed their ancestors to protect the land. If no steps are taken to help this group it would mean that they have failed their families and ancestors. I can see that the Native Hawaiians care deeply about their sacred land their culture. I believe they can achieve this from stopping the building of the TMT. I being part of the outside community support the idea of sacred land not being destroyed and I feel they are doing the right thing. Even though this event is still at large, I will continue to observe and see the outcome of this protest to see how it unfolds in the future.

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