Mauna Kea, Imiloa and a place for safe disagreement

Mauna Kea, Imiloa and a place for safe disagreement

Author: Steve Miller – University College London, United Kingdom


  • Ka’iu Kimura – ‘Imiloa Astronomy Education Center, Hilo, Hawai’i, United States

The future of Mauna Kea – a mountain sacred to many native Hawai’ians – is now the site of a major demonstration / occupation in protest against the decision to allow the building of the Thirty Meter Telescope close to the summit. Although the courts have cleared the way for construction to begin, native Hawai’ian kia’i (protectors) and their supporters have blocked the access road to the mountain, claiming that the summit has been mismanaged for over 40 years since the first telescopes were erected and used there. They feel that yet another telescope adds to the “desecration” that has already been committed.

Supporters of the telescope – including many other native Hawai’ians and leaders of tradition-preserving organisations such as the Polynesian Voyaging Society – point out that astronomy is in the blood of the maka’ainana (people): spreading out from central Polynesia to the corners of the Polynesian triangle (Hawai’i, Aotearoa / New Zealand and Rapa Nui / Easter Island) would not have been possible without a deep understanding of the stars, their positions and how they moved in the night sky. They see the Mauna Kea observatory not as a sacrilege but as a natural extension of the voyaging traditions of the islands.

The ‘Imiloa Astronomy Education Center – with its focus on all aspects of Mauna Kea, astronomy and voyaging – sees the mountain as a boundary object that can bring people together in a place of “safe disagreement”, whatever their views. Founded in 2006, the Center runs programs and planetarium shows that emphasise what cultures have in common rather than what divides them. This talk will highlight the work done by the Center in an atmosphere of profound disagreement.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Transformation