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Science vs. the Real World on Mauna Kea

In his latest piece on the struggle to protect Mauna Kea from the Thirty Meter Telescope, Will Falk daringly takes on the sacred cow of today’s enlightened and rational society: western science. Western science, in its quest for pure knowledge, is portrayed as a value-neutral tool employed for the highest good of humanity, and therefore the entire world. But Falk goes to its roots to expose it as just another manifestation of our human supremacist culture. Contrary to the common view, science has damaged the world far more than it has helped it. Even with a narrow evaluation of the net benefit to humans, science has caused far more harm than good, except for a privileged few.

Even within liberal and activist circles, this is an unpopular view. But if we don’t honestly name root problems, we risk falling into isolated NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) struggles, each fighting off threats with the compromise “You can do it somewhere else, just not here.” It is time for us to identify the culture of civilization and its supporting ideologies, including science, as an unacceptable threat to all life, and it is time for us to stand united in fighting it back anywhere it encroaches on living communities.

Proponents of the status quo frequently shut down such discussions by charging hypocrisy: how dare you critique science using technologies developed by it? As a proactive rebuttal, Falk writes:

Sitting Bull used American made rifles to defend his people from American cavalrymen. Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Nigerian poet who was murdered for resisting Shell Oil in his homeland, wrote in English – the language of his oppressors.

I wish with all my heart that I could live as our ancestors lived – a life free from the deepest anxiety that in a few years everything might be gone. I was raised in the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains of Utah, and I wish with all my heart that I could spend my life walking in Indian paintbrush, columbine, daisies, and lupine consumed in the total wonder and beauty of life. I wish with all my heart that I could sit still in simple expression of the love I feel. But, while everyone I love is under attack, it is simply unforgivable not to do everything within my power to protect them. It is simply unforgivable not to use every tool at my disposal to defend them.

Or as another Deep Green Resistance member puts it: “We’re using our computers to fight injustice. You’re using yours to defend it. Who’s the tool user, and who’s the tool?”

Read the entire essay at Science vs. the Real World on Mauna Kea.

June 24: Mauna Kea protectors vs cops

We’re late in sharing this, but at the end of June the DLNR attempted to escort a TMT construction crew past the peaceful protesters blockading access to Mauna Kea’s summit. The crew and their armed security were turned back by the bravery and ingenuity of the defenders as they creatively used rocks to slow and ultimately halt the progress of the assaulting forces.

Will Falk, who has been reporting regularly on the fight to protect Mauna Kea, wrote a gripping eyewitness account of how events unfolded that day. He shares his personal experience, describes people involved in the struggle, and shows the importance of their relationships to each other and to the sacred mountain, driving home the personal connections making this resistance possible. Just as importantly, he recounts how personal connection and integrity do not stop those in power and their hired guns from harassing and roughing up nonviolent resisters. It may be important for us on the side of life to maintain moral superiority over those furthering business as usual, but it’s not enough. As militaries know around the world, only application or the credible threat of force will stop those in power.

On June 24th, that force took the form of piles of rocks slowing the ascent of the construction crew. The crew was on tight enough a schedule that this delay made it impossible for them to reach their goal. This application of force is a beautiful example of using our strength in numbers to work with the aina (which also wants to protect itself) strategically against agents of destruction. (And unsurprisingly, those agents and their media mouthpieces immediately tried to spin the piles of rocks as a “public safety concern” ― a laughable example of why you can never believe their rhetoric!)

As the fight on Mauna Kea continues, and resisters to another telescope on Maui’s Haleakala prepare for their own showdown this week, the lessons of June 24th are important to ponder.

Read Falk’s report-back: Protecting Mauna Kea: “We Are Satisfied With The Stones”

Protecting Mauna Kea: This Is a War

So many good-hearted people want to see change in the world, with an end to environmental devastation, social injustice, and exploitation of women; but aren’t prepared to face the full difficulty of righting these wrongs. Those in power do not enforce their policies of extraction, oppression, and domination by accident or through mutual agreement with those giving up their resources. Rather, to maintain their control, those in power use the persistent and systemic threat of force with judicious enactment of violence when the threats aren’t enough. Much of this is hidden: domestic violence usually occurs behind closed doors; we don’t widely discuss the enslavement of more humans today than crossed in the entire history of the Middle Passage; and corporations maximize their bottom line with governmental police and armies to enforce laws written by the corporations themselves.

On every front we are at war, under siege, and we have been since the beginning of agriculture and civilization. It’s scary to acknowledge this reality, as it has serious implications for how we pursue justice. If exploitation and this horrific imbalance of power are not accidents; if we can’t expect that asking nicely for what’s right will effect change; if we must expect those in power to inflict violence in retaliation for any truly effective action; then what do we do?

The answer to that question is not straight forward, and will be different for each person and each circumstance. But we must bravely face reality so that we can make grounded and informed decisions.

Will Falk writes about this reality in our islands:

Sitting outside the 10 by 20 foot makeshift tent that has served as my home for the last 34 days on Mauna Kea, I watch the tent poles shudder to the concussion of US Army howitzer cannons firing live shells at their training grounds below. When the wind blows just right, from the south, the rattle of automatic rifle fire reaches the occupation. There’s no denying it: A war rages in Hawai’i.

He discusses how this fact might affect the strategies and tactics of those fighting for Mauna Kea and for Hawaiian sovereignty, and what resisters should consider as they decide their course of action. These issues are relevant to all struggles for justice, and his essay is important reading even for those not involved in this particular battle. Please read Protecting Mauna Kea: This Is a War.

Protecting Mauna Kea: Vocabulary for Haoles

Language is important. The words we use matter, and the ways we use them are fundamental to our communication. With this in mind, Will Falk of Deep Green Resistance wrote a primer for members of settler culture to better understand the struggles around Hawaiian sovereignty, and the occupation on Mauna Kea to stop construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The terms I define in this essay — haole, racism, white supremacy and genocide — are experienced in a very real way by oppressed peoples around the world. It is not my place to explain these terms to people experiencing genocide in the most vivid ways, so I write to those privileged enough to be free from these realities. The first step to acting in true solidarity is accepting the truth and to accept the truth we must communicate with the most honest words.

[…]

One thing I’ve noticed in my attempts to work in solidarity with people of color is that many white people hate being reminded of their whiteness. When I was a public defender bemoaning statistical realities like the fact that there are more black men in prison today than were enslaved in 1850 to a roomful of white judges, prosecutors and cops, I was shouted down and told we live today in a colorblind society. When I was at the Unist’ot’en Camp pipeline blockade in so-called British Columbia and our Unist’ot’en hosts explained the need for separate indigenous and settler camps due to the reality that many indigenous peoples felt more safe expressing their opinions away from settlers, there was always a white person who tried to set up in the indigenous camp with the logic that we’re all one human family.

So, the question becomes: Why do white people hate being reminded of their whiteness?

Although uncomfortable, it is crucial that those of us in positions of privilege examine the oppressions from which we benefit. Falk’s essay is an excellent start for understanding the colonial situation in Hawai’i, or the basics of white supremacy anywhere in the world. Please read Protecting Mauna Kea: Vocabulary for Haoles.

Protecting Mauna Kea: Pule Plus Action

Will Falk reports with clarity on what is needed in the struggle to protect Mauna Kea from the Thirty Meter Telescope project. It is critical for defenders to connect with the land and the mountain they love through prayer, but also crucial to translate that love into effective action. The environmental movement has been losing on all fronts for 40 years: not because of any lack of love for the world, but because we aren’t taking this war seriously and are not developing and implementing strategic plans.

Falk shares his perspective as a member, on the ground, of a developing resistance campaign. Different people have different ideas for how to proceed, often based in well-meaning and tradition-rooted ideals of kapu aloha, love and respect. Defenders of the land, holding to these ideals, must recognize that the state and its minions will not behave with the same respect. A successful campaign strategy must take this into account.

I think I’ve demonstrated that the TMT project is enabled by a problematic worldview and should not be allowed to proceed. After Governor David Ige’s announcement last week that he would support and enforce the TMT’s construction, the Mauna Kea protectors want the world to know we never expected the State to help us. We must stop the TMT project and we must do it ourselves. The question becomes: “How do we do it?”

The occupation on Mauna Kea is an expression that the protection of Mauna Kea is the people’s responsibility. We cannot trust the government to stop the TMT. We cannot trust the police. We cannot trust the courts. We have to do it ourselves. In other words, nothing has changed since the occupation began over two months ago. In many ways, the occupation on Mauna Kea reflects all of our environmental and social justice movements around the world.

Read the rest of Falk’s analysis at Protecting Mauna Kea: Pule Plus Action. And for a big picture scenario of what successful resistance might look like, read the Deep Green Resistance strategy of Decisive Ecological Warfare.

Protecting Mauna Kea: Notes From the Summit

Will Falk writes the next entry in his “Protecting Mauna Kea” series after journeying to the sacred mountain’s peak. He contrasts the natural beauty and living community of the mountain to the impositions of industrial artifacts ― multiple telescopes in place already, with the buildings and roads necessary to support them.

Falk addresses the facile claim that the Thirty Meter Telescope is a project for the higher good of humanity, so it doesn’t matter if a sacred place, its inhabitants, and a human culture holding it in reverence are all further damaged:

In response to the “love for the stars” argument, keep in mind that the Ku Klux Klan advertises itself as a “love group not a hate group.” Either we have to trust people like the KKK, or we realize that we cannot trust everyone’s rhetoric. Another way to look at this is to understand that often what is called “love” in this dominant culture is really a poisoned version of what love truly is. Those responsible for the TMT project might love the stars, but that love is poisoned by the destruction their project will create. What is love if it causes you to violate boundaries established by aboriginal peoples? What is love if it causes you to clear an 8 acre space, digging two stories on a formerly pristine mountain top? What is love if it causes you to dangerously perch hazardous chemical waste above the largest freshwater aquifer on Hawai’i Island?

For those committed to standing on the side of life, and in solidarity with indigenous struggles against ongoing genocide, the fight against the TMT demands support and a deeper look, beyond the rosy picture painted by worshippers of science.

Read Falk’s entire essay at Deep Green Resistance News Service: “Notes From the Summit”

Protecting Mauna Kea: Talking Story

From his new perspective as part of the Thirty Meter Telescope blockade, more than nine thousand feet above sea level, Will Falk contemplates our modern jet-fueled culture in which everything is a commodity with no place or relationship truly sacred. He contrasts this to the glimpses he’s already seen into the multi-generational, deeply connected relationships and stories formed by Native Hawaiians with Mauna Kea and the rest of the aina. The dominant culture systematically ignores, denies, or actively destroys those stories and the respect they engender for the landbase. The lessons of ancient wisdom are anathema to a system based on exploitation and short-term profit couched in religious, economic, and scientific trappings.

Falk explains:

I am writing this Protecting Mauna Kea series, in part, to understand how it is possible for a culture to think it is acceptable to desecrate another people’s most sacred site by building a massive telescope on the top of a beautiful mountain. I want to understand what the individual humans responsible for this project think and feel. Are they simply mistaken about the nature of physical reality? Do they really think that digging deeply into a mountain to build a telescope will be harmless? What I have learned, so far on the Mountain, from the protectors, from Kahookahi, and from the director of the DLNR provide, perhaps, an answer.

Quite simply, when you understand a place is full of stories and the beings who provide these living stories, it becomes very difficult for you to destroy those stories. When you understand the language of a place and learn how to communicate in that place, it becomes very difficult for you to destroy that place. When you learn to talk story wherever you are, you can learn to understand, and fear becomes more difficult.

I think the TMT project is the result of a culture that has forgotten how to talk story, has forgotten the living stories unfolding everywhere around us. When you look at Mauna Kea and see a simple mountain – just a collection of earth as I’ve heard some insensitive folks describe it-you will treat it one way, but when you look at Mauna Kea and see, as traditional Hawaiians do, a vast collection of stories and living story-givers, you will treat it in a much different way.

Falk explores the importance of the renaissance in Hawaiian culture and language, rescued from more than a century of active attempts to suppress, erase, and destroy indigenous knowledge in Hawai’i. This reclaiming of identity is helping fuel growing Hawaiian resistance to the illegal occupation by the US, and is currently focused on the TMT project.

Falk, like most of us members of settler culture, can’t know the full experience of a lived spirituality integrated with land: land who nourished and sheltered your ancestors; land who reclaimed and reused their flesh and bones and spirits. But he’s spending time listening to the stories of those who have participated in such long-term relationship with the aina. For those of us without direct access to such stories, his reports are well worth reading at Deep Green Resistance News Service ― Protecting Mauna Kea: Talking Story

Protecting Mauna Kea: They Hate Hawai’i

Will Falk of Deep Green Resistance recently arrived in Hawai’i, and uses his latest essay to examine the “pornification of Hawai’i” ― the commodification of Hawaiian culture, women and the natural beauty of the aina. He draws on analysis by Haunani-Kay Trask of the effect of settler culture on Hawai’i, and compares that to the effect pornography has had on women in this culture.

In this Protecting Mauna Kea series, I want to encourage tangible support for native Hawaiian sovereignty in settler communities. In order to do that, I think it is necessary to understand the hatred expressed towards Hawai’i by the dominant American culture.

Before arriving in Hawai’i, I read and heard from several native Hawaiian scholars about the pornification of Hawaiian culture. I’ve learned right away how true this is. Just like men are conditioned to overlook hatred of women early in their lives through pornography’s propaganda, settlers are conditioned to hate Hawai’i through the pornification of Hawaiian culture.

I flew Hawaiian Airlines to Hawai’i, for example, and the complimentary in-flight snack included a candy called “Aloha-macs.” This product, by a company called “Hawaiian Host,” is self-labelled as “creamy milk chocolate covered macadamias – the original gift of aloha.” Hawaiian Host and the dominant culture seek to transform an ancient indigenous wisdom – aloha – into a candy, sugary trash, something to consume.

As soon as we boarded the plane, I noticed the video monitors displaying clips of beautiful, dancing Hawaiian women. I thought immediately of Trask’s brilliant essay “‘Lovely Hula Hands’: Corporate Tourism and the Prostitution of Hawaiian Culture” where she explains how tourism converts cultural attributes into pure profit.

In both the tourism industry and in pornography, entitlement is sold and reinforced: haoles have the right to buy bits and pieces of Hawai’i to satisfy their desires for relaxation and pampering or adventure and novel experiences; men have the right to buy bits and pieces of women to satisfy their desires for sexual gratification and control. Both industries create toxic mimics of respectful, mutual relationships, and harm those being objectified and sold off.

Read Falk’s entire essay at Deep Green Resistance News Service – Protecting Mauna Kea: They Hate Hawai’i.

Also read a response by a Filipino-Hawaiian-Portuguese woman reflecting on her own experiences under patriarchy and under occupation. She validates the important connections drawn by Falk of the intersections of male and haole entitlement: My Body, the Island.

See all of Will Falk’s “Protecting Mauna Kea” essays, plus other resources, at our page
Protect Mauna Kea from the Thirty Meter Telescope

Protecting Mauna Kea: Stopping Murder-Suicide

Will Falk’s third installment in his series on protecting Mauna Kea addresses this culture’s conflation of spirituality with superstition. Many proponents of the massive Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project dismiss out of hand the cultural concerns of Hawaiians who defend the sacredness of Mauna Kea and decry the construction of yet another telescope as desecration.

I often get an explanation like this, “I support indigenous people, of course, but the telescope is for science. Isn’t it a little…superstitious to block an astronomy project for a mountain?” Spirituality, I forgot, is anathema in many leftist circles.

It shouldn’t be.

I understand that many in this culture have been wounded by their experiences with religion. Some religions have, on the whole, been disasters for the living world. But, to write off all spirituality because of the actions of a few religions, is not just intellectually lazy and historically inaccurate, it erases the majority of human cultures that lived as true members acting in mutual relationship with their natural communities.

Falk explores how spirituality, a culture’s way of relating to the world, influences how members perceive others and thus how they act toward them. Many civilized religions, including the Catholicism into which he was indocrinated from birth, see the material world and natural human urges as impure and shameful. They share with science a conception of a hierarchy of beings, with God and angels (or the mind and intellect) superior to human bodies, which in turn are superior to other animals, plants, insects, and “unliving” objects such as mountains. Conveniently, both science and the major religions of civilization provide justification for human exploitation of the rest of the world.

Falk felt betrayed by the hypocrisy of Catholicism and its antithetical stance towards affirming life. In what he now recognizes as a mistake, he extrapolated his disillusionment and anger to all spirituality. He makes a powerful case in this piece that we must seek out, embrace, and protect those spiritualities which actually benefit communities of humans and non-humans:

To stop the TMT project, to stop the genocide of indigenous peoples, and to save the world, I believe we need to empower spiritualities that learned how to live in balance with their land bases. We need to empower indigenous spiritualities around the world.

Read the entire article at Deep Green Resistance News Service – Protecting Mauna Kea: Stopping Murder-Suicide. See all of Will Falk’s “Protecting Mauna Kea” essays, plus other resources, at our page Protect Mauna Kea from the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Hawaiian history for haoles

For the second article in his “Protecting Mauna Kea” series, Will Falk of Deep Green Resistance briefly sketches the history of the Hawaiian islands, describing how this autonomous nation was illegally occupied by the United States.  With no attempt ever made by the US to redress this faulty foundation, its presence in Hawai’i and its control over vast areas of Hawaiian land are ongoing violations of international law.

This history is not trumpeted by the government of occupation and the commercial tourism interests which depend on an image of aloha and acceptance of all comers. So for many haoles, especially non residents of Hawai’i, it comes as a shock to realize that the “50th state” is not legally part of, or under the jurisdiction of, the United States. But the truth about this occupation is not obscure, either; it is readily available to anyone who digs into the history at all. And as Falk writes:

How can the American government and the American people after learning this history, after admitting the wrongs done to Hawai’i still allow something like the TMT project to happen? I think the answer is that learning the history is only the first small step. Knowing the history, we must act.

One of the intentions behind my writing is to try to understand how so many people can recognize problems in the world and then fail to act to solve those problems. I am a haole, so I can only speak as a haole, and I believe too many haoles settle for pointing out their privilege while the more important work involves undermining the forces that grants them that privilege over others in the first place. The history is clear. Hawaiians are being wronged. Now, we need to act.

Read Will Falk’s entire article: Protecting Mauna Kea: History for Haoles. See all of his “Protecting Mauna Kea” essays, plus other resources, at our page Protect Mauna Kea from the Thirty Meter Telescope.