MAUI—KAHEA: The Hawaiian Environmental Alliance reminds us that 40 years ago, the people of Hawaii agreed to share two of the highest and most sacred summits with a small community of University of Hawaii astronomers on the promise of protection and stewardship of fragile alpine habitats, endemic native species, and sacred cultural landscapes. Today, however, Haleakala and Mauna Kea have become the site of increasing industrial development proposals. Hawaii’s lawmakers are hoping to get Native Hawaiians more enthused about the coming developments.
U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D—Hawaii) announced at the UH Maui College (UHMC) “Launch Celebration” last Friday that the college will receive a $20 million mitigation grant as part of the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST) project. The grant is targeted at integrating Native Hawaiians into science and technology education programs. Ironically, the telescope is the latest in developments at Haleakala that have been in direct conflict with the practices and concerns of Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners.
ATST is planned to be the largest solar telescope in the world. According to the National Science Foundation, the telescope will use adaptive optics technology to provide the “sharpest views ever taken of the solar surface.” It is to be constructed within the 18.1166-acre University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy site at the summit of Mount Haleakala on Maui, for a cost of nearly $300 million.
UHMC was awarded the mitigation funds, $2 million per year for 10 years, for its proposal, “Akeakamai I Ka Lā Hiki Ola (AIK): Scientific Exploration Beneath the Life-Bringing Sun.” The proposal will engage Native Hawaiians to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (aka “STEM”) by integrating STEM educational strategies with traditional Native Hawaiian approaches to learning.
The proposal will focus its efforts on students in Maui County’s secondary schools, identifying and preparing students early in their education, and working with math and science teachers and staff. The program includes development of STEM coursework in the Hawaiian language, and also seeks to engage parents, families, prospective employers, and community members, as well as various Native Hawaiian student networks through a variety of community partner programs. A significant portion of the funding will go directly to Native Hawaiian students in the form of performance-based financial support and paid internships.
It has not been mentioned whether those educational opportunities will also include insight into the impacts of over-development on native peoples, the importance of preserving historic and natural sites, or compliance with environmental law.
The following video is part of a series depicting the destructive effects of the proposed Advanced Technology Solar Telescope on the spiritual practices of Native Hawaiians living in Maui.