Caring for the Mountains

So TMT is making another go at Mauna Kea.


I need to acknowledge my upbringing before my opinion. I grew up in Tacoma, Washington, in the shadow of Mount Rainer. We would visit the mountains, go to Snohomish, Snoqualmie Pass, go to the yearly fair in Puyallup. The mountains have always served a purpose in my life, and I tend to feel most at ease living in the shadow of one. They have always been a special place to play, hike, walk, and reconnect with nature. I've climbed St. Helens, and Mt. Baker. I grew up with the expression "pack it in, pack it out", which included a personal waste bag when climbing Baker. (Not going to lie, it was pretty funny seeing the target sticker at the bottom of the bag). Today, while considering Mauna Kea, I decided to look up Mt. Rainier's original name, Tacoma. It got me thinking... I grew up surrounded by towns not with western or European names, but with the names given by people of the Pacific Northwest's 'aina.


A few summers ago I took a job cleaning the dorm rooms at UHH, and while it was a tough job the people were wonderful. It wasn't until the group photo that I realized I was the only white person in the group. So while I know my maiden name is Erickson, I can promise I'm much more the "pack it in, pack it out" exploring type, not the "hail the conquering hero" type.


I've gotten the opportunity to spend time with Auntie Lei, and for those who know her, she's a wonderfully feisty who keeps the streets of Hilo safe, and keeps the current mayors and officials informed of what exactly is going on in their town. While I had the honor of housing her for a few days I asked her cultural questions and learned quite a few things. While I tend to by shy in regards to the Hawaiian people (knowing the history behind the missionaries who carried my spiritual texts in their hands), and knowing the general damage that people with my color skin have done. She assured me that if I came respectfully, regarding the culture and the 'aina, living pono with kokua, that I am good in her eyes. And she's not the only one, for those who know Pulelehua Ulu Winchester, or in my world "Mz. Lioness", is a dear friend of mine. Meeting at UHH for a theater class, she and I had a short play we did together. So if you hear her shouting "Foxy!" you may see a white lady skip up to her in a rather informal greeting.


Now that you have a background lets talk about the issue at hand, and flip the script a bit. Weather patterns and snow aside, imagine if groups gathered to build roads up Mt. Rainier (Tacoma), Mt. Fuji, or Kilimanjaro. It requires 20 acres of the summit be bulldozed, with room made for septic and chemical systems to be sunk into the ground along with the foundation. Now imagine the creation of a 98 ft building, vast in it's technology and functional due to chemicals that could desecrate the land around it. So now the used chemicals are either dumped or shipped out constantly on roads which are constantly degrading and slipping away due to the loose cinder base. But wait, there's 13 other smaller buildings doing the same thing. How long has this been going on? 50+ years. Did they have permits? Not when they were being built. Why? 'Cause science. It's just the best spot for viewing in the world. Oh, no, wait, all these companies are benefiting from it too. And tourism!


Can you see the potential for frustration yet?


Now let's put a religious twist on this. Pretend for a moment that this place, the highest point in your people's realm held the absolute highest honor in your religious system. The place where the sky meets the earth (which has it's own beauty even if you aren't a worshiper of this particular system). Imagine a bulldozer pulling up to the Vatican and saying "Oh we just need to flatten this one wing, you still have the rest." "Oh but that's a Catholic building steeped in our history" you say?


Ok, imagine the prettiest place in nature you've ever been. On a hike, in a park, on the beach, maybe the place you proposed... got it? Good. Now imagine coming back and it was a parking lot, filled with people who had no idea what it used to be and are taking pictures next to paintings of it's former glory and cutouts that told of the places history and cultural significance. Maybe there's a picture of you and your family on one of the signs. A woman with a flag and loud speaker walks by "Don't forget to pick up your souvenirs at the gift shop".


According to my faith, in the days long past an all-powerful deity later known as Yahweh spoke reality into existence. "In the beginning..." the story is told. The Christian creation story, which is not that far from the Kumulipo rings through many a household. Saving the best for last, "Then God said, 'Let us make people in our own image, to be like ourselves. They will be masters over all life- the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals.' So God created people in his own image, God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them. God blessed them and told them, "Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters over the fish and birds and all the animals." Gen 1:26-28. Subdue. Not decimate, desecrate, or destroy. He made us gardeners, animal keepers, stewards of his creation.


Look, I've worked at Walt Disney World, and I love traveling. I'm not against souvenirs. I'm not against tourist, in fact, a good tourism company informs it's guests and provides genuine products made by locals of the region. I'm not against science or astronomy. I remember falling asleep underneath the blanket of stars at base camp on Mt. Baker, it felt like I could reach out and touch them. I acknowledge the desire to be curious and want to quantify the magic we see in our world.


I'm just not willing to destroy one part creation to get a closer look at another.


Mahalo nui,

Tiffany Prose

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