EnVision Maunakea’s process coming to a close; about 100 people participate

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald A snow-capped Maunakea in 2017, as seen from Alae Cemetery in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald From left, David Rodman and Don Mitchell of EnVision Maunakea.

Organizers of EnVision Maunakea say they had one main goal — to start a respectful conversation regarding Hawaii’s tallest mountain and its future.

In that, they say they’ve succeeded through 15 listening sessions around Hawaii Island that recorded residents’ viewpoints on a place prized by many, including Native Hawaiians and astronomers, during the past year. But, as that process comes to a close, they’re hoping the respectful dialogue they witnessed continues.


“I hope that we’re planting that seed,” said David Rodman, a Kapaau resident and former mediator who is helping facilitate the sessions.

EnVision Maunakea has been led by a volunteer steering committee, meeting facilitators and others whose job was simply to listen. It is supported by the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy, UH’s Office of Maunakea Management, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center and Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope.

The idea came to fruition following protests that shut down construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, opposed by some Hawaiians. The issue has since divided many in the community.

But Rodman and Don Mitchell, a retired anthropologist from Hilo who is part of the listening hui, told the Tribune-Herald earlier this month that the listening sessions were focused on getting residents’ thoughts and feelings about the mountain itself, not specifically astronomy. Neither was it about TMT.

They said their report, which could be done in the spring, will be a reflection of what they heard during the private sessions, which were intended to allow participants to speak freely. There will be no recommendations. Media access was prohibited during the sessions.

“People who pay attention or read what we say we heard will probably make recommendations, but not us,” Mitchell said. “We’re saying the people we talked to say the following things.”

About 100 people have participated so far, though there might be one or two more sessions, they said during a Jan. 12 interview.

Both men acknowledged the report can’t be presented as an official survey or a reflection of the island as a whole. Participants either were asked to join or volunteered themselves. They included Hawaiian cultural practitioners, homesteaders, hunters, businesspeople, students, astronomers and others, they said.

Rodman said each listening session started with participants being asked about their relationship to the mountain, what they value about it, how that can be supported without interfering with someone else’s point of view, and how do they see what they value evolving over the coming decades.

In general, two common themes they heard from participants is that they feel deeply, even spiritually, connected to the mountain and that they think there are too many visitors going to the top, particularly during sunset.

Regarding the spiritual connections, they said they heard that expressed from Hawaiian cultural practitioners, including those who consider the mountain sacred, from those who simply enjoy the calm the mountain brings, and astronomers who use the telescopes atop the mountain to study the universe.

Rodman said one astronomer commented regarding their work: “This is a spiritual experience for me. I just get chills when I’m doing my work. I’m looking at the heavens; I’m looking at history.”

They said there was a strong consensus that astronomy has a place on Maunakea, but people also want the mountain’s uniqueness to be preserved.

“By and large people do not object to the telescopes across the board,” Rodman said.

Still, people expressed concerns about management of the mountain, with the lack of clear access rules being an issue, they said. But, at the same time, people also don’t want their access restricted, they noted.

“What we’re hoping policymakers take away from this is a recognition that, in the view of a majority of the people that we spoke with, the management of Maunakea needs improvement,” Rodman said. “It needs better coordination. It needs more clarity. That’s one of the observations I think has been very universally or very commonly is more information needs to be made more readily available to everybody who is on their way up there.”

Regarding those concerns or comments, UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said he would encourage people to visit OMKM’s website, which includes the management plans.

He said finalizing administrative rules, which would address access, is still in the works. That process has been held up at least in part because of the TMT controversy.

Hawaiians traditionally saw the top of the mountain as a wao akua, or realm of the gods, where only alii or priests were allowed.

But how that should be looked at in a modern context, particularly when it’s fairly easy for anyone with a truck to drive up to the top, was a question several had.

On that issue, Mitchell said a Hawaiian man in Kona framed it this way: “What is the meaning of the realm of the gods in the time of the Toyota 4Runner?”

“He meant that seriously,” he said. “That’s an example of what many people talked about. … What do we do to make sure everybody is accommodated, everybody’s feelings are accommodated in some way?”

Rodman said opponents of TMT were invited to attend, though only a few participated.

The report will be made public and sent to policymakers, such as UH, which holds a master lease for the Maunakea Science Reserve until 2033. It intends to seek a new lease from the state.

Meisenzahl said UH will take a close look at the feedback in the report.

“Anything to engage the community and create better understanding and better address the concerns, we’re in full support of it,” he said.

Founding members of the EnVision Maunakea working group are: Susan Maddox, Friends of the Future; Greg Chun, OMKM board member; Ka‘iu Kimura, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center; Stephanie Nagata, OMKM director; and Doug Simons, CFHT director.


For more information about EnVision Maunakea, visit www.envisionmaunakea.org.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

  1. Rusty Da Clown January 22, 2018 7:28 am

    Sounds like a great way to have a civil dialogue without the shouting. I wonder though, did they venture out of the pro-development comfort zones of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce in Hilo and the recent arrivals in Kona? How deep into the homesteads did their invite list go? How about the hunters in the extremes of Kohala and Ka’u?

    1. naeporue January 22, 2018 4:34 pm

      As long as they can hunt they don’t mind. Near the telescopes there are no sheep, pigs, or goats.

  2. Kia'i Mauna January 22, 2018 9:24 am

    There were forty four days of a Contested Case Hearing where testimony and discussion was VERY civil and controlled. The entire focus of the Hearing was Mauna a Wakea, and the issues “Envision” supposedly intended to highlight. The suggestion there is a need for this Unit to find civil and open discussion seems bogus. The Hearings were transparent, and provided excellent information, from involved and invested people. Participation in the Hearings were not by invitation, it was open to the entire Public. That this Unit is ” Founded ” by the people identified as most responsible for the “mismanagement” of the Mauna is revealing. This is not an unbiased Unit, and I wouldn’t expect an unbiased report from it. This Unit was founded by people who benefit directly and financially by the Astronomy Industry on the Mauna.

    1. RKimo January 22, 2018 11:24 am

      Kai’i perhaps you were not there during the CC hearings. You say “VERY civil and controlled”? Well not so much. I was there for a lot of it and there were many outbursts of anger and even threats. The petitioners were RUDE and often times OFFENSIVE to the people testifying on behalf of the astronomy community. There were 6 to 8 DOCARE cops there every day. Why were they there? Were they there because the astronomy people are aggressive and potentially violent? Uh… No they were there because of the Death threats leveled at the astronomy community ( and there were hundreds) by protesters. So “VERY civil and controlled”? NO Not Really..

      1. Sundog January 22, 2018 3:14 pm

        Civil vs. Uncivil –
        If you do not stand up on your home ground, you will never stand up anywhere at all.

        1. RKimo January 22, 2018 3:35 pm

          Acting like adults and engaging in Civil discussion is how things move forward. Throwing childish temper tantrums and leveling threats is not standing up it is just being stupid. How much respect is maintained or gained by threatening others when you don’t get your way. None. NO Respect.

          1. Sundog January 22, 2018 7:34 pm

            Pedantic patronizing a waste of your time and mine.
            Combat veterans understand the different types of ground, the term home ground.

          2. Poi January 23, 2018 2:47 am

            You don’t get to say where my name comes from, Sunny. You have no idea. Your wanna be warrior stance is empty, primitve and atavistic. You and your ilk are as the Zen “one hand clapping”. You still don’t have any right to threaten anyone, no matter “your” ground. It’s everyone’s..

          3. Sundog January 23, 2018 2:37 pm

            Remember the time some aunty called you poi dog and you had a meltdown.
            This atavistic public meltdown of yours – let’s not even go there.
            I don’t threaten I promise. To you and your ilk LIVING IN THE MODERN WORLD,
            G’day !

          4. Poi January 23, 2018 3:39 pm

            U 1 Dumdog, Sunny!

          5. Sundog January 23, 2018 4:01 pm

            It’s the dogs that don’t bark that bite.
            C U Friday, sonny !

          6. Poi January 23, 2018 6:33 pm

            Not if I smell you first! aloha.

          7. Sundog January 24, 2018 11:13 am

            You’d best be scenting for your ilk panic at short notice, rapid advance.

          8. Sundog January 24, 2018 11:48 am

            Act your age, not your shoe size !

          9. Sundog January 24, 2018 11:25 am

            You put yourself out there – name, behaviors, and all
            then blame others’ observations for making you lose it.
            Re-read R. Kimo’s post. TAKE THE HIGH ROAD.
            Act your age, not your shoe size.

          10. RKimo January 23, 2018 4:05 pm

            Amazing how when the Truth is presented those who cannot handle it or acknowledge it take what was written out of context OR just change the subject completely. Some people have no backbone anymore. It is always someone else’s fault.

          11. Sundog January 23, 2018 4:13 pm

            There is always room for improved communication…everywhere.

        2. Poi January 22, 2018 3:46 pm

          “standing up on your home ground” would ideally not include terroristic threatening.

          1. Sundog January 22, 2018 7:51 pm

            If this were ‘an ideal world’ I would totally agree

      2. Kia'i Mauna March 21, 2018 5:01 pm

        Straight up…you’re a liar. Since you were there ( according to you ), tell us the very clear seating arrangement for the Petitioner. Also, lets take this to another level. You let me know who you are, I’ll file a lawsuit against you for what you are saying here, and we’ll let the court decide who is telling the truth. But, lets start with you identifying the seating arrangements. If you get past that we can establish your credibility. Ready, set…go.

        1. RKimo March 22, 2018 2:10 pm

          What are you Stupid? Seat arrangement is relative to what? Lawsuit? What are you Stupid? The proceedings were not completely civil and DOCARE cops were there EVERY DAY because of THREATS from TMT protesters. There were threats leveled at Amano and TMT / Astronomy employees. This is TRUE. Go over your transcripts. Plain and simple as that. Why did DOCARE cops need to be there?

  3. DonnaGrabow January 22, 2018 10:42 am

    Hmmm… very noble sounding title, “ENVISION MAUNAKEA”

    Better title “INVASION Mauna Kea”, as this PRO TMT group was drawn up by: OMKM board member; Ka‘iu Kimura, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center; Stephanie Nagata, OMKM director; and Doug Simons, CFHT director.

  4. RKimo January 23, 2018 12:51 pm

    I will bet anyone $100.00 Cash money that there will be childish temper tantrums during the BNLR meeting on Jan. 26 Friday. Come on people, grow up and act like adults.

    1. Poi January 23, 2018 3:42 pm

      not taking that bet!!

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