A week after photos surfaced of abandoned tents and other trash at the TMT protest camp at the base of Maunakea, the site is finally being cleaned up. Some TMT supporters even lent a hand.
Over the past week, concerned residents of Hawaii’s Big Island took the initative to document the current landscape at the base of Maunakea, where TMT protesters have set up camp since the summer of 2019.
Photos of the site show that it appears to have been abandoned without being fully cleaned and restored, which comes in contrast with the oft-repeated message of “aloha aina” and “protect Maunakea,” mottos of the protest since the very beginning.
After Hawaii news outlets picked up the story (Tribune-Herald, KITV), there was a quick rush among protesters to clarify the status of the site; they claimed that the only items remaining were items that needed to be secured in the wake of high winds and turbulent weather conditions, which the area did indeed experience over the last couple of weeks.
However, the protest largely faded out before the photos surfaced and even before the weather kicked up, when Big Island mayor Harry Kim promised the protesters that construction of TMT wouldn’t start “at least until the end of February 2020,” a proposal dated December 26, 2019.
Some of the protesters even attended the American Astronomical Society’s 235 meeting in Honolulu, which took place from January 4-8.
Following their explanation for the status of the base camp, which many local residents considered unsatisfactory, protesters moved quickly to clean up the mauna, even receiving some assistance from TMT supporters who drove by to check out the scene.
Lisa Malakaua and Mike Nathaniel, two Hawai’i community members who support TMT, live within clear view of the mauna and decided to check out the area for themselves after noticing that a lot of “stuff” still remained at the site even after the protesters had been gone for a couple of weeks. The two provided the photos shared above and even lent a helping hand to the cleanup effort, using their pickup truck to move some of the trash to the onsite dumpster.
Astronomy Hawaii spoke with Lisa about the situation:
AH: What drove you to go visit the protest site to clean it up?
LM: We weren’t sleeping well after our January 9 visit up to the Mauna when we witnessed trash, broken down tents, wooden pallets, torn flags, illegally parked vehicles, etc… scattered all over the aina. It looked like a county dump site. I left the mountain that day with a very heavy soul. As I knew inside my puuwai that this was definitely not how you treated something spiritual or sacred.
The community may be severely divided right now, but I think there is one thing we can all agree on and that is not to dirty the feet of our beloved Mauna. We live in Mt. View so we are greeted by her everyday. So we too really love and respect her.
To assist with the clean-up was our way to lead by example. It’s one thing to complain about something you don’t like that is occurring in your community, but it’s a whole different story when you are willing to take a stance and act upon it. I’ve always said, “I wasn’t placed on this earth to participate in a popularity contest, but rather to make a difference while I am here.”
AH: What do you think the state can do to improve and/or conclude this situation?
LM: The state making right by all the people so trust can be re-established within our community. Stop recklessly and fraudulently spending taxpayers money with absolutely no conscience and/or facing any legal consequences to their unsavory actions. Be more transparent in their decision making by including the community more. Uphold the U.S. and state laws fairly and equally to everybody. To not support a particular group of a particular race while violating the civil and constitutional rights of the rest in the community. Recognize that no one or no one group in America is above the U.S. or state laws. It’s really time that our state leaders be more aggressive, engaging, respectful, and committed to their sworn oath to office and their people. In other words, it’s time that our state leaders also start leading by example.
We will continue to provide updates on Maunakea as the situation evolves.