A culture and science center above the clouds

The protectors on Maunakea have done an amazing job of organizing and sending their message out to the world.

Now is the perfect time to consider a culture and science center above the clouds where they will always be able to share their message of Hawaiian values — in their own way, and in perpetuity. A place where they determine the look, the practices, the agenda. A place where Hawaiian values of aloha and sustainability are the moral authority on what happens on Maunakea.

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This culture and science center could replace the present Visitor Information Station. It could stand a quarter-mile west of it, at an elevation below the ancient adze quarry where Hawaiians manufactured tools from basalt rock. Visitors would pay a not-insignificant entrance fee, which would support the center and the Hawaiians who work there (on their wood or feather work, weaving, mele, dance, food, martial art, navigation, research, or other specialties). We envision not a tourist gift shop but a substantial working place where Hawaiians gather and do significant and important work. The center would also celebrate the high-tech, best-in-the-world TMT and its astronomy.

We know that too many tourists drive up the mountain these days. It’s not sustainable and also creates an untenable load on facilities at the Hale Pohaku level. We also know that tourists are spending less money in Hawaii. As oil prices continue to rise, the state’s income from tourism will drop further. We are overly dependent on an economy that is not ideal and is also falling away.

A carefully planned culture and science center would draw not casual tourists but higher-paying ones. Visitors interested in high-tech (itself an economic shift for the island) and a higher-level, more meaningful and authentic education about Hawaiian culture and sustainability will pay more. That will also limit numbers going up the mountain.

The center would serve as a beacon, showing the world the extraordinary ability of Hawaiians to live within their resources and in harmony with nature. The world yearns for this today and Hawaiians know how to do it. Hawaiians sailed the ocean by naked-eye navigation, and still do. Our ancestors adapted their fishing and agricultural activities to be in balance with nature. It’s in our DNA.

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Finding a peaceful solution to the situation on the mountain so that TMT can start construction can include creating such a robust and sustainable Hawaiian center. One where the focus is on perpetuating Hawaiian ways and values, far into the future, in ways defined and shared by Hawaiians themselves.

Let’s consider how all can continue to benefit from this situation where so many are coming together peacefully, in kapu aloha, to live and celebrate our culture. Let’s move forward and make conditions even better for our keiki and the next generations, despite the worldwide economic problems that will keep hitting us hard in coming years. Let’s celebrate our high-tech science; the amazing, world-class Hawaiian discoveries that will change our knowledge of the heavens and our very existence; and the intelligence and expertise of our people and our culture in the past, present, and future.