A Sustainable Earth Depends Upon an Indigenist Future

Long prophesied by native thinkers, Earth is dying. The global ecological system is collapsing under the weight of industrial development. More ecosystems including the atmosphere have been lost and degraded than the biosphere can bear. Concurrently perma-war, injustice, and inequity have hit epidemic proportions and are worsening ecocide and obstructing solutions.

While social movements of many types work on these issues, the forces of ecocide are pernicious, resolute, and massive. To date adoption of solutions including smaller families, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, protecting and restoring natural ecosystems, and transitioning our communities to bioregional sustainability have proven orders of magnitudes inadequate to stop or even impede the surging industrial growth machine’s gorging upon native ecosystems and peoples.

MK_DVWe got into this predicament as centuries ago ecological colonialism swept from Northern Europe to wage ecocide on ecosystems and genocide upon other non-European peoples. A deadly blend of capitalism, Christianity, and militarism sought to liquidate natural ecosystems for perfunctory consumption by some; defended by rigid institutionalized racial, class, and inequity divides.

Against such a desperate backdrop about the only real hope for Earth and all her life that can found is the resurgence of indigenous thought and action such as that playing out in Hawaii. There on the Big Island brave native defenders have taken a dramatic stand against some of the most privileged seeking to steal their sacred Mauna Kea mountain. In an unjust, inequitable, ecologically collapsing world #WeAreMaunaKea (one of the hashtags on Twitter used by the movement) offers a vision of ecological sustainability and social harmony based upon Aloha ‘Aina – love of the land.

#WeAreMaunaKea calls on the Moore Foundation and TMT Hawaii to voluntarily withdraw plans to steal and desecrate native Hawaiian sacred land with an industrial scale telescope. And they do so based upon love of the land and community mobilization in a manner that is applicable to virtually every environmental and social justice struggle. Following in the Gandhian and Martin Luther King tradition of non-violence, their own blend of Kapa Aloha stresses bearing witness to ecocide with their bodies, minds, souls, and voices; albeit with a specific Hawaiian flare.

The Aloha ‘Aina protectors demonstrate the ecological Earth ethic needed for the human family and our one shared biosphere to survive. A powerful global indigenist uprising that along with allies ends industrial ecosystem destruction of the landbase is Earth’s last best chance to avoid global ecosystem collapse and achieve global ecological sustainability.

Mauna Kea

MaunaKeaSnowMauna Kea is a sacred mountain to native Hawaiians and is vital for pure water on the Big Island. Measured from its base in the ocean, Mauna Kea rises over 10,000 m (33,000 ft), significantly higher than Mount Everest. Mauna Kea dramatically affects wind and weather patterns, and its often snow-capped peaks collect water that feeds the aquifer for Hawaii Island.

There Poli’ahu the Snow Goddess gathers, stores and shares life giving wai (water). So sacred is Mauna Kea that access was limited to only the most reverent of spiritual purposes. Land is sacred to native Hawaiians, and their ancestors believed numerous gods and goddesses inhabit Mauna Kea, and it continues to be revered as a temple. This may appear to be superstitious to some, but it is the basis of a worldview that protected vital ecosystems.

For Hawaiians, Mauna Kea is where the sky and earth separated to form the heavens and where the mother and father of the Hawaiian race first met. Mauna Kea holds more than 250 shrines and burial sites and in centuries past its summit was so revered that only high chiefs and priests were allowed to ascend it. The mountain inspires many traditional chants and songs.

There are already 12 telescopes scarring the mountain; and the newest, called the Thirty-Meter Telescope, would be 18-stories tall and destroy an additional eight acres of land, and intensify human waste and toxics entering the sensitive ecosystem. Mauna Kea Conservation District Lands are watershed, historic, environmentally and culturally sensitive lands and therefore have special protected status under Hawai’i law. The mountain is home to endangered Hawaiian flora and fauna including the Hawaiian silversword plant, the mamane tree, and the endangered finch-billed species of Hawaiian honeycreeper that lives only on the upper slopes of Mauna Kea.

Sacred lands such as Mauna Kea offer some of Earth’s last intact ecosystems and biodiversity required to sustain humanity and the biosphere. While indigenous peoples account for 4% of global population, occupying 22% of land, their ancestral lands hold 80% of remaining biodiversity. The TMT telescope being built against the wishes of native Hawaiians is neo-colonialism, water and land ecocide, and continues the process of turning sacred Mauna Kea into a poorly managed industrial park. Such is the history of the end of the world.

The Protectors

For months protestors have camped out on the top of the mountain creating human blockades, there have been dozens of arrests, as well as numerous affinity protests nationally and across social media including on Twitter at #WeAreMaunaKea. Those on the mountain emphasize that they are protectors not protestors. Yet for 95 days and counting #WeAreMaunaKea has kept the forces of ecocide and cultural genocide from stealing and fencing Mauna Kea’s summit.

MK_DV2#WeAreMaunaKea tactics have been exquisite. For months small groups have camped on their sacred mountain ready to block reconstruction, as small groups of average citizens protested street side across the island, building strong public affinity (my wife and I partook once and it was lovely). Native rock ahu alters were built on Mauna Kea in anticipation of renewed efforts to steal sacred lands. Last week after the moratorium on TMT construction had ended, lines of protectors mobilized as construction loomed, one by one getting arrested, as the access road was blocked by boulders strewn to impede access. Meanwhile native protestors and allies sang, danced and expressed love, while many others posted photos and tweeted to build global affinity.

#WeAreMaunaKea continues to demonstrate to the entire world the power of Hawaiian Aloha ‘Aina (love of land) and Kapu Aloha (kindness, love, empathy). Yet at the same time TMT and bought government enforcers have learned quickly to not confuse native Hawaiian’s Aloha with weakness and lack of resolve.

Despite the forces of large ecocide and cultural genocide continually seeking to break native Hawaiian blockade to steal and fence Mauna Kea, for months the movement has grown and strengthened. Native Hawaiians and affinity protestors have drawn a line: no more ecocide and rights abuses on Mauna Kea. In so doing they have set an example for the world of how communities can demand control over their destiny and ecosystems.

The native Hawaiian #WeAreMaunaKea movement is demonstrating the path to global justice and ecological sustainability lies through entire communities swarming industrial debasement of sacred natural ecosystems and based upon Aloha ‘Aina and Kapu Aloha defeating such transgressions. When asked who blocked the road, the entire community roars back I have. This is how ecocide will end globally and sanity return to the human spirit embedded forever in the land.

Native Hawaiians protecting sacred Mauna Kea refuse to accept more occupation, land theft, rights abuses, and ecosystem loss. Similar native movements are occurring globally as indigenous peoples mobilize, and it is something that even settlers by birth must embrace to become re-landed in their own sacred ecosystems. Aloha ‘Aina is all about fully occupying and protecting the sacred land upon which we all depend locally and globally for a liveable Earth.

Most amazing though is that #WeAreMaunaKea – like all great leaps of human consciousness – is arising organically, without central leadership or coordination. Soon all over the world one can envision “Indian” native peoples and allies rising up to defeat “Cowboy” settlers restoring Earth and humanity. Native Hawaiians never consented to sacred Mauna Kea being occupied and destroyed by colonizing astronomy settlers.


The $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), to be 18 stories tall and the second biggest telescope in the world, would be built in the Mauna Kea Conservation District on the Big Island of Hawaii. TMT’s insistence that they will occupy and further desecrate the summit of Mauna Kea despite the heartfelt cries of an entire people is a shameful display of cultural imperialism.

Far from a “clean science,” astronomical projects bring many environmental problems. On Mauna Kea, once untrammeled by humans, thousands of astronomers per year now drive to its summit. They leave behind some 500,000 gallons of human waste annually and introduce toxic chemicals such as ethylene glycol and liquid mercury into the fragile environment. Construction has damaged and leveled the peaks, spewing dust and facilitating human intrusion that is wreaking havoc on this fragile ecosystem.

TMT science on sacred Mauna Kea is a crude expression of white privilege, theft, oppression, and renewed occupation of native Hawaiian land and represents continuation of the age of ecocide, waged under the banner of rationality since European colonialism commenced. In this day and age it is unconscionable that racist land thefts and desecration of native lands continue in the name of “science”.

Perhaps no one is more complicit in continued raping of the Hawaiian race and their land than Gordon Moore of Intel fame and fortune. His Moore Foundation have pledged a quarter of a billion dollars to the venture, continuing the long history of Western businessmen oppressing native Hawaiians (including those which overthrew the kingdom leading to present day occupation). We expect such things from the Canadian government and other funders of Mauna Kea’s occupation, but it is particularly vicious and reprehensible coming from a man that purports to be visionary and support the environment.

Recently the Hawaiian Supreme Court agreed to rule on the merits of native claims that industrial astronomy is not a valid land use for state conservation lands. Almost immediately following the announcement, TMT Hawaii and the Moore Foundation sought to immediately rush to the top of Mauna Kea’s summit, breaking the peaceful native blockade, to seize and fence the contested land.

Why won’t TMT proponents wait until the coming Hawaiian Supreme Court ruling on telescope before building? What are they afraid of, and are they aware of some illegality in their actions? We hope TMT Hawaii and collaborators are misguided and not evil, yet regardless #WeAreMaunaKea won’t allow more theft and desecration.

TMT science astronomers and their billionaire paymasters are at this very moment scheming to forcibly break native Hawaiian blockade to steal sacred Mauna Kea. And we need your help to stop them – please start by participating in EcoInternet’s action alert: Demand Those Building TMT Telescope on Hawaiian Sacred Mauna Kea Voluntarily Withdraw.

Astronomers have no innate right to steal Mauna Kea from native Hawaiians. There actions do indeed constitute cultural genocide, which is waged not only with murder, but also by stealing and destroying sacred sites causing despair, social disharmony, and collapse of indigenous ways of being.

When will Intel money flowing through the Moore Foundation and the University of Hawaii stop funding ecocide and genocide being waged upon Hawaii’s native peoples and lands?

Gordon Moore’s misbehavior demonstrates further the horrors of inequity whereby 200 people have half of Earth’s wealth and one billion live on less than $1.50/day, something which is evil incarnate and will kill us all. Billionaires don’t simply get their way all the time, and are not able to destroy all they want by virtue of great wealth. With great wealth comes even greater responsibility to share and protect.

Learning with Indigenous Peoples

#WeAreMaunaKea sends forth a hopeful message of global Aloha ‘Aina – protect and restore land or face biosphere collapse. From Hawaii right around the world – including in Wisconsin and Papua New Guinea where I have recently helped successful native efforts to protect their land – Indigenous peoples lead the way to a sustainable future.

Be clear, native owners of sacred Mauna Kea have not approved its desecration by TMT and they are the only ones that matter. Modern humans destroy ecosystems upon which life depends, native people lead us back, seeking to protect and restore the ancestral garden.

Again, we know that ending fossil fuels and permawar, protecting natural ecosystems and having fewer kids as we share more are necessary to avoid biosphere collapse. But perhaps no single action is more needed to achieve global ecological sustainability than fostering a love and deep devotion to the land.

Globally native peoples are taking back their lands, resisting ecocide, and are leading the way to ecological sustainability. I’m a haole (a white person in Hawaiian), so choose to listen or not. Yet I am married to a Papua New Guinean, have spent many years living in that Pacific Island’s villages, and have spent 2 1/2 decades advocating for indigenous rights and the environment. My life has been lived out of devotion and love of the land.

This I know: In matters of land theft, ecocide, and cultural genocide there can be no common ground. We have to each choose a side. And once chosen, embrace and be embraced. The #WeAreMaunaKea movement faces some obstacles as with its native emphasis by definition it is insular and not particularly welcoming to other races. Yet Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders constitute only 10% of Hawaii’s population. To be successful indigenous movements such as #WeAreMaunaKea need to build bridges to those from all communities that share Aloha ‘Aina and reject further settlement of native lands.

Native peoples should reach out and embrace non-Hawaiians attending their events. While understanding the profound abuses heaped historically on native Hawaiians, it is crucial they stop judging people by race and instead judge them by their actions. You simply can’t do it by yourself, you need allies. Practice aloha towards those of other races reaching out to you in support of love of the land and Mauna Kea. Together #WeAreAllMaunaKea.

MK_DV3I also know that chances to reassert native sovereignty don’t come along often or easily. Given this once in a lifetime chance, it is essential that #WeAreMaunaKea continue in pursuit of total #TMTShutdown. To do so we need a constant stream of social media from the mountain to global supporters to build global affinity. Whatever shall befall Mauna Kea and its protectors, it shall not be in anonymity.

It is well past time for the human family to come together to overcome historical wrongs as work together for global justice, equity and ecological sustainability. We must nurture a profound love of the land even as we end fossil fuels and protect and restore natural ecosystems.

#WeAreMaunaKea calls for an immediate permanent #TMTShutdown to protect native rights, sacred land, and Big Islands’ water. Today and everyday #WeAreMaunaKea reiterate to the Moore Foundation and TMT Hawaii that the TMT telescope will never be built on our stolen land. Sadly a tourism boycott of Hawaii may be necessary if authorities continue abetting the persecution of native Hawaiians.

All Earth’s people are called to rally to #WeAreMaunaKea’s just and sustainable plea, and to express their love of Mauna Kea and all sacred land. Only then can one human family live forever with a sacred Earth.

Dr. Glen Barry is the President and Founder of EcoInternet. He is recognized for contributions to the environmental movement by communicating the severity of global ecological crises and actively organizing with others sufficient responses. Read other articles by Glen, or visit Glen's website.