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Wondering about opposition to wayfinding

Coming out of the week of the full moon and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, our eyes have been guided skyward, and our minds to the courageous feats of the sky wayfinders.

Whether skywatching virtually and/or via naked eye or telescope you, like myself, may be enfolded by the same sense of wonder that strikes as each night’s sky map unfurls, strewn with stars and planets — blue-black velvet stitched with myriad gemstones. You, too, may have experienced a similar sense of awe and connection with the test pilots and astronauts who were the first to brave space, and those who backed them by dreaming up and constructing modern “flying machines” made possible through our developing technology that reach for the moon and beyond.

This is a leading example of human creativity paired with ingenuity and intelligence, as well as bravery. Discoveries and milestones in all fields of human knowledge formed the base to allow dreams to become reality.

That is why it shocked me to see the crowd of protesters gathered at Kauai’s “airport corner” in Lihue last Tuesday evening. People waved signs and Hawaiian flags and yelled out their opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope. Yet this newest and most-powerful of telescopes to be installed on the optimum site on earth for “skywatching,” Mauna Kea, will train its magnificent eye upon far galaxies we now know exist in space, providing knowledge beyond known boundaries.

The protest truly puzzles me. Hawaiian studies teaches that the Polynesians who plied the deep, wide and unknown waters of the great Pacific were the very first true navigators. Running parallel to today’s wayfinders they, too, were launching into previously uncharted realms in the best craft of their day, and with the best knowledge gained by careful observation of the heavens. The Polynesian elders who developed through generations the star map used by Nainoa Thompson’s navigator forebears and then followers in the recent peacemaking circumnavigations of our globe by Hokulea were the ancient’s “NASA,” if you will.

The navigators knew that not just designated places and peaks were sacred, but that all land was holy and to be honored and respected. How could they not? As human beings, if they failed to make landfall, they would lose their lives. To find a life-giving island or body of land in the great unknown was the quest and the reason behind the canoe with its chosen crew aboard. Those aboard had to be sound of mind and body, not unlike today’s astronauts. They, too, were the colonizers. Similarly, each was an expert in his or her discipline that would contribute to the success of the mission. It’s a given that Polynesian adventurers had to reach landfall before their fresh water supply gave out. In space, the absolute requisite, of course, is air — oxygen. We have gone beyond.

We human beings developed as a species to live on this planet. All people of the earth who are in touch with the land, their homeland, know that “the earth is our mother,” as in the Hawaiian concept of aina. This principle — the Gaia Principle — is ancient and deep-rooted.

Once-great and powerful world cultures throughout time have failed and disappeared after over-populating and decimating life-giving resources, fouling themselves. On the way to their ruin, history teaches us, lies a disconnection with the earth, the natural world.

When the Apollo 11 crew first saw the “earth rise,” a previously unknown phenomenon to “earthlings,” it’s reported that color film was quickly called for. The view of Earth, our swirly-blue planet home, was captured as a never-to-be-forgotten image. Seeing this image and realizing its implications while hurtling through space changed the meaning and connection of their lives for those men, and for others who gaze upon the stunning photograph. My “nutshell” realization of what may be heard recorded in the film of that moment shown on PBS was that our planet — all of it — is sacred.

Sadly, it seems we have fouled our own planet home and are continuing on this path, ignoring the warnings of our scientists. When I saw and read of the Hawaiian protests centering on Mauna Kea, I wondered if these impassioned citizens have considered that all land — and ocean — is sacred, not just this mountain peak. The observatories upon it today are dedicated to scientific knowledge in peaceful pursuit that may help humankind in ways we don’t yet comprehend.

In ancient times, an adze quarry for hammering out tools existed on Mauna Kea, not a heiau, or sacred space set aside for worshipful purposes. If this information is incorrect, then this writer begs to be corrected.

I wonder if the protesters, if time-warped back to days of the great Pacific explorations that launched from the small experimental triangle of Fiji-Tonga-Samoa, from Nuku Hiva, from the Cook Islands, Tahiti and Aoteroa, would demonstrate their opposition on those beaches. I wonder if they would chant their opposition to the observations of the heavens of their own scientists which led to the launches of the craft of that day manned by their wayfinders into the unknown. I wonder if the Hawaiian people would ever have had the chance to develop upon these new-found islands we call home today.


Dawn Fraser Kawahara, writer and poet, has focused her supportive interests within the Kauai community since the early 1980s. She and her husband, a retired biology teacher, live in Wailua Homesteads and share a passion for books and travel. Kawahara’s books are available through Amazon and other outlets. For information, email
Source: The Garden Island

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