Professor Mark Clatterbuck spent a week in August 2019 at the Pu’uhonua Pu’uhuluhulu encampment on the Big Island of Hawaii. Native Hawaiians are leading a movement there to block construction of the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on top of Mauna Kea, the world’s tallest mountain from sea floor to summit.
Mauna Kea is among the most sacred sites in Hawaiian religion, which is why so many Native Hawaiians and their allies are fiercely determined to protect it from the desecration of installing an eighteen-story telescope on its peak. Since the day when thirty elders were arrested in a peaceful blockade of construction activity in July, a large-scale encampment has occupied the access road to Mauna Kea’s summit, marked by daily prayers, chants, dances, and sacred ceremonies of protocol.
Despite threats from law enforcement, state officials, and the National Guard, the blockade has been successful in halting all TMT construction to date. In addition to the religious dimension of the struggle, the anti-TMT effort is also motivated by grave environmental concerns and a swelling Native Hawaiian sovereignty movement. Dr. Clatterbuck visited the site for his book project on the current rise of religiously motivated environmental activism in the United States.