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Decolonize Astronomy?

Decolonize Astronomy?

The plan to build a Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea
has resulted in a worldwide protest movement and a very interesting hashtag

At first glance, the notion of colonialism having anything to do with astronomy or science seems far fetched, but as you peel back the layers, the story becomes quite interesting. Science, as a method of inquiry and discovery is most potent when it isn’t influenced by politics, yet it has benefitted greatly from the moral injustices of colonialism towards indigenous communities over the centuries. Today indigenous perspectives are often excluded from the scientific discussion, but we have an unprecedented opportunity to heal this history and elevate the conversation to benefit all of humanity.

By claiming “survival of the fittest” or “might makes right” Social Darwinism, is an example of how science has been inappropriately used to justify the colonial power dynamic. The concept has very little to do with Darwin, it ignores the research that values cooperation as a component of evolution, and it conveniently implies supremacy and domination of one species or culture over another. This perspective permeates our economics, politics, foreign policy, and has unfortunately permeated science as well. Many indigenous perspectives sees things differently, as inter-connected in a larger web or circle, and do not view life-forms or cultures in a hierarchy.

This difference in world-view is at the heart of many struggles on the planet and is especially apparent in Hawaii where scientists are proposing to place a 30-meter telescope on top of the watershed which is the sacred mountain of Mauna Kea. Background here. This week on social media voices in the scientific community spoke up about the ethical issues surrounding the telescope. Though Hawaiians hold Mauna Kea as their sacred and ancestral site, they are also voicing concern over their watershed and fragile habitat on this island eco-system. Any holistic scientific inquiry would value the top of a watershed for the health of all life-forms including humans, yet this argument has barely been heard in what is being viewed as a clash between culture and science.

When science gains by oppressing the Sacred, then Science becomes The predator of moral balance.. it is critical that our collective lesson teaches aloha pono: respect my boundary, as i respect yours. We have an obligation to build science on dignity, respect of each other first. That being the standard, please, please see what is sacred to us is not sacred to this project. Kapu Aloha , Do not take what is not yours Sacred. Science, and industry, and government are feeling the violation of disrespecting. I am sorry that is happening to you. Please forgive me should you understand it might be a failure of mine. Thank you for respecting me . WE lOVE YOU, NOW, BEFORE AND AFTER THIS CONFLICT!. We see you bigger than your moral immaturity. I See We Hawaiians Challenged to meet the intellectual and moral imbalance prevailing. Were all going to the mountain, just from the No Risk Side. Aloha pono! Love prevails all trauma . Peace first, not after you take. -Harry Uhane Jim

I created the image of the telescope on Mt. Rushmore above to illustrate a perspective that many westerners are too quick to ignore. What if your water source, your sacred site was the chosen spot for this telescope? Mt Rushmore itself (without a telescope on it) is symbolic in that it is a sacred place to the Sioux Tribe. To have the faces of the white foreigners who invaded their land and killed their ancestors on that mountain shows the insensitivity and disrespect of colonial attitudes towards indigenous people that most westerners fail to notice. It is no surprise that Lakota Chief Arvol Lookinghorse has expressed solidarity with Hawaiians in their fight to protect their sacred mountain.

Storyfy illustrates the unfolding social-media drama that erupted on Twitter between academics and scientists. Buzzfeed also did a great piece that explores the controversy in Astronomers Clash Over A Giant Telescope On A Sacred Hawaiian Mountain. You can search the hashtags #decolonizeastronomy #tmtshutdown and #aoletmt. Charee Peters, an Astronomy PhD student,  and proud Yankton Sioux tribal member, kicked off the discussion with her tweet below. Dr. Chanda Hsu Prescod-Weinstein, theoretical astro|physicist, has been leading the charge along with others in the field. Scientists recognize that the credibility of their work relies on acknowledging that not everyone has the same concept of progress as western science.

Wherever you stand on this issue we can all celebrate that this conversation is becoming part of the public discourse across cultures. Mutual respect and open dialogue between opposing viewpoints is the only way to heal and grow our understanding of each other. We live in a time when every voice matters. We must continue to embrace and include all perspectives if we want to heal the traumatic history we all inherited and create a better future.

WORDS BY JACOB DEVANEYFEATURED IMAGE: Sacred Mauna Kea Hui – Fanpage / Via Facebook: sacredmaunakea



The post Decolonize Astronomy? appeared first on UPLIFT.
Source: Uplift Connect

Sacred Forests – Part I: The Search

Sacred Forests – Part I: The Search

By Sam Low, author of Hawaiiki Rising

In 1990, the Polynesian Voyaging Society decided to create a new canoe, to be called Hawai’iloa after a famous Tahitian navigator. Hawai’iloa would be built of traditional materials – lauhala for the sails, olana for the lashings, koa for the hulls, ohia for crossbeams to connect the hulls, and hau for stanchions, decks and steering paddles.

HawaiiloaTeaurere-Marquesas-SamLow1-555x348“Hokule’a was built quickly, of modern materials mostly,” Nainoa Thompson recalls, “and then we went right into sailing – it was an ocean project – the emphasis was on sailing her, not building her. But when our ancestors built and sailed voyaging canoes, it required the labor and arts of the entire community, everyone working together – some collecting the materials in the forest, others weaving the sails, carving the hulls, lashing, preparing food for the voyage, practicing rituals to protect the crew at sea. So we thought that building a canoe of traditional materials would bring our entire community together, not just the sailors, but the craftspeople, artists, chanters, dancers and carvers. The Native Hawaiian Culture and Arts Program was set up to build not just a canoe – but a sense of community – by recreating Hawaiian culture.”

Nainoa hoped they could find traditional materials to build the canoe in Hawaii. He was particularly concerned about finding two large koa logs for the hulls. For nine months, almost every weekend, teams of Koa hunters fanned out through Hawaii’s forests. They walked over hundreds of square miles on Molokai, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii. They followed tips from foresters, naturalists, game wardens and hunters. Once they discovered an extremely large and promising tree but it was rotten. It had probably died 50 years earlier. As the days passed without success, Nainoa worried. If they did not find the trees the dream of building Hawai’iloa of native Hawaiian wood, after years of planning and soaring hopes, would certainly fail. Time was running out.

On a weekend in the middle of March 1991, Nainoa and Tava Taupu searched the remains of a once dense Koa forest on the flanks of Kilauea volcano on the Big Island. They scanned the trees around them, measuring the trunks visually, looking for one large enough to carve into the 60-foot hull of a voyaging canoe.

“We searched that weekend with a large team and found nothing,” Nainoa says. “Everyone had to go back to work on Monday but Tava and I stayed up in the forest and we decided that Tuesday, March 18th, was our last chance. At that point I was very sad and depressed by the difference between what I imagined the forest to look like and what it actually looked like. All around us were alien species and ferns uprooted by feral pigs. I saw a layer of vines twisted in the canopy from one tree to another, choking the trees. The fence line between the Kilauea forest and Keahou ranch created a stark contrast. How small the reserve seemed when compared to the ranch. How much had been cut down.”

“There’s a fence line up ahead about a half mile,” Nainoa told Tava, “I’ll go up slope and we’ll work towards it together to cover more ground. We’ll meet at the fence. If we don’t find anything, that will be it.’ We knew that it was probably a futile attempt, but it was our last chance.”

It was getting cold as the two men neared the fence line. Mist sifted through the trees and collected on Nainoa’s fleece jacket. He raised the collar and hunkered into its warmth. Reaching the fence, he joined Tava and they continued together downslope toward the sea. They came to a place where prairie grass lapped at their legs with a swishing sound like the ocean on a sheltered beach. The view opened out to wide expanses of ranch land with cattle in the far distance. They headed toward a four-wheel drive truck parked in grass up to its hubcaps.

“I saw Tava and he saw me but we didn’t say anything,’ Nainoa recalls. “We each knew that the other had not found a tree. There was nothing to say, because there was nothing good to say. We did not even walk on the same side of the road and Tava walked behind me, as if we were repelled by each other. We were very depressed. We did not achieve what we so much wanted to achieve. But beyond that, I think the erosion of the forest was eroding something inside of us. We didn’t want to mess with each other. I walked ahead. He walked behind.”

A single alternative remained. Nainoa did not want to accept it but he knew that it was the only way that Hawai’iloa could be built.

Can’t wait to read the rest of the story? Find it HERE.

Learn more about Sam Low’s work via his website:
Source: Mission Blue