Letters to the editor: 08-18-19

Astronomy in our everyday lives makes difference

Paleaku Gardens Peace Sanctuary is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located in South Kona. Our mission is to promote peace and harmony to individuals and within communities. We are a 7-acre botanical garden that includes facilities for education and cultural events. Some years ago, we sponsored and planted the Galaxy Garden, a 100-foot diameter “living” map of the Milky Way created with beautiful hedges and flowering plants. Visitors can enjoy a walk-through astronomical experience in West Hawaii inspired by astrophysical data.


Supporting the expansion of knowledge and merging the secular and the sacred is the experience we hope visitors feel when strolling through our various garden installations. Over the years, we have had visits from astronomers and astronomy clubs from all over the world. Through our close partnerships, we appreciate being able to support astronomy, and in turn, stimulate the interest of all our visitors.

Paleaku Peace Gardens is one of the sponsors of the annual Maunakea coin contest where school children from around the island design a coin that includes all aspects of this majestic mountain: its environment, the culture, and astronomy. The winner’s design is then minted and distributed. We enjoy giving them out throughout the year to all the children who visit the garden.

We would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the astronomy community, and all the Maunakea observatories, for the many outreach programs they offer on Hawaii Island that continue to enrich our community. Highlighting a few in West Hawaii: the yearly program of GEMS (Girls Exploring Math and Science), Astro Day, which will be held this year at Kealakehe High School on Nov. 3, West Hawaii Science Fair and the Lego competition, Kona library evening talks, Kealakehe Family Science Night, career day at Hookena School, and Kealakehe STEM camp. They visit classrooms or offer portable planetarium shows at school in Hookena, Honaunau, Kahakai, Waikoloa, and Kealakehe, in addition to hosting stargazing events at various campuses.

In light of the recent upheaval that has divided our community regarding the construction of TMT on Maunakea, we see an opening for communications that can lead to a paradigm shift. If we view the mauna through the sacred lens of humanity, this allows for a reciprocal dialogue to expand the narrative of what is possible at this critical moment in the evolution of human culture. This is a pivotal moment for Hawaii to take her place on a global level as a leader in bridging peace instead of conflict and inclusiveness rather than division. The time is now, the place is Maunakea, and she has room for astronomy and kapu aloha to co-emerge as the beacon of the unity that will bring our species the needed wisdom to become stewards of the universe we seek to understand and explore.

Coming out of chaos, the cosmos organized itself into infinite galaxies that include our solar system and our evolving earth. Can we envision the observatories as beacons of exploration, curiosity and wisdom that look into our future? They then become the connectors to the vast knowable space. These observatories, including TMT, are our nexus between heaven and Earth. The future will look back on Maunakea just like we look back on all the sacred sites around the world that marked time, planetary alignments and astronomical events. Let us listen deeply to our own hearts and support each other for the benefit of our community, our islands, the planet and humanity.

Barbara DeFranco

Executive director Paleaku Peace Gardens, Honaunau

Simple: Who built, paid, maintained access road?

I’m not surprised that State Sen. Kai Kahele is taking the position that the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, DHHL, owns the access road. This appears to be the facts. Fifty years ago the state built the road to the summit. There was an agreement, which may or may not have been kept.

It seems record-keeping is not a strong point for both sides. The state did build the road, maintain the road, keep the road clear. That implies the DHHL by default had given the access road to the state. The state could have used eminent domain, still could if they choose, and historically they have acted as the custodians of the road.

Legal precedents have usually been settled in favor of those who built the road because there was no other access except through others property. It might also be noted that the road was built to serve both the cultural and telescope reserves so both parties benefited. As to ownership, who paid for the road, built the road, and maintains the road? The state did.


John Pierce