Greeting a New Year

We are now in the year 2021 by the Gregorian calendar used for much of the world. The celebrations are done, with the scars left by fireworks in our street now fading. We look forward to another year after the the stressful and destructive times of the last twelve months, a year that will loom large in memory for the remainder of our lives.

Point Retreat Lighthouse on the north end of Admiralty Island, Alaska
Point Retreat Lighthouse on the north end of Admiralty Island, Alaska

While the calendar now reads 2021, somehow 2020 seems to drag on. I feel that the remnants of 2020 will not truly be gone until January 20th, and maybe not even then. Perhaps later in the spring when vaccination programs end the viral rampage through our communities.

As we rebuild our lives and try to recover some sense of normality we might look back and try to understand the lessons taught by the year 2020. These lessons are both small and personal or large enough to threaten the foundations of our civilization. We have seen into ourselves and into those around us, the true nature of so much revealed by stress and argument.

Will these lessons be learned? Will things change? While we might be able to change ourselves for the better more easily than we can change our country, both need to be done.

While we plan for the coming year and move forward we rely on experience, something that 2020 was rich in. May you live in interesting times… The old curse that seems so applicable to the moment.

An Anticipated Election

Done.

2020 Hawaii Ballot
The 2020 Hawaii county ballot section for president

Ballots complete, stuffed, signed, and deposited in the drop box at the county elections service center that just opened. While decisions on the various candidates had been made quite some time ago, we had to spend some time reading to understand a few of the county charter amendments I was unfamiliar with.

I cannot recall a ballot I was so anticipating filling out or dropped in the box with such satisfaction. Even if the deeply blue Hawaiʻi result on the presidential election is already well known, filling in that box was something of a catharsis. I may have used a bit more ink than necessary to register the vote properly.

I realize I have voted in nine presidential elections across the decades. I have always made a point to vote, even in primary elections. I look back and realize that years past I often voted without much concern for which party a candidate declared, particularly in traditionally conservative Arizona where the best candidates were usually in the GOP. Those days are gone, maybe for quite a while.

Voting in Hawaii is very easy… Get the ballots in the mail, fill out at leisure, mail them in. Deb and I opted to drop them off directly to the elections office as the service center site is just a skip and hop off the main road into town.

The elections service center for the island’s west side is located in the county office complex off Kealakehe Parkway. Around back in the multi use room, easy parking, no crowd, the kind ladies manning the center will point out the box just inside the door.

Now we just have to wait 14 days for a result, and perhaps a bit more for confirmation.

Comfort Food

Eating habits in our communities have drastically changed. The most obvious evidence of this is the consistently bare shelves in the local supermarket.

Empty shelves in the baking goods aisle
Empty shelves in the baking goods aisle

Going out to do our weekly grocery shopping I wander the isles and make note of empty store shelves that were never empty before. There is a theme in those empty shelves, a pattern that reveals that how we eat has changed in substantial ways.

One of the first things to disappear from our local grocery were what I consider comfort foods… Boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese, tins of biscuit dough, and that Hawaiian favorite SPAM. In those early days of stay at home orders people bought foods that were familiar from childhood, offering a reassurance of normalcy, at least in the kitchen.

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Farmers Market with COVID-19

Local farmers markets have thankfully been declared essential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Weds I had to run into Keck for a quick pickup and gladly noted that the mid-week market at Pukulani Stables was open. I would stop by after completing my errand.

The Pukulani Stables mid-week farmers market in Waimea
The Pukulani Stables mid-week farmers market in Waimea

The market was running light on vendors, but doing just fine on customers. Many of the non-food vendors were not there, Warren and his photographic prints were missing, the candy gal with homemade cakes and brittle absent, as were the various gift and craft vendors. Selling non-essential items they are likely not covered in the closure exemption, and the usual tourists who are their real customers are gone.

Who was there are the usual produce vendors. I immediately head to Honopua Farms table looking for beets and lettuce. To my pleasure they have both and I scoop up a bag of beets. Fresh veggies will go well with all of the basics from our last Costco run.

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Mauna Kea Public Access Rules Take Effect

On January 13th, 2020 Governor Ige signed the controversial rules governing public and commercial activities on Mauna Kea Lands. They take effect ten days from the signing, on January 23rd.

Mauna Kea sits above a fog shrouded Saddle Road
Mauna Kea sits above a fog shrouded Saddle Road

I have mixed feelings on these rules. Some of the rules are badly needed to control public activity atop the summit of Mauna Kea, rules that can help preserve and protect this place. I believe other rules go too far, attempting to regulate visitor activities that have no impact on the mauna.

My concerns on these rules are known, I have written about them here on DV and I have testified at each round of public hearings. I will not editorialize this time, the rules are now finalized. Those who go to the mauna should be aware of what has changed, and much has changed, expect these rules to be implemented in coming months.

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Living in the Protest Bubble

Given my interactions with various protesters I have wondered just what information is exchanged in the camp privately among those who have been living there. I wonder how that information has shaped their views and driven the core of the Kia’i movement.

Tents of the protest camp at the base of Mauna Kea
Tents of the protest camp at the base of Mauna Kea

My worry is that the camp is serving as an environment where a more extreme stance in this controversy can be created and thrive.

The recipe for this is simple… Take a number of people that already share the same views, isolate them together, and bring in speakers and teachers that amplify the message. The result of this process is well understood in human psychology.

One of the common statements from those in the camp, one repeated over and over, is to come on up and live in the camp, only then you will understand.

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Were cultural sites destroyed when building observatories?

Another of the myths that plague this conversation. While not as commonly stated as some of the other myths discussed here, it has been persistent and seems to pop up regularly.

A photo of the Mauna Kea summit area from the Preston expedition of 1892
A photo of the Mauna Kea summit area from the Preston expedition of 1892

When the 12 existing facilities were built, not only were laws waived, heiau and ahus were bulldozed into trash heaps. 

wailana in a comment on Ian Lind’s blog 14Sep2019

The myth is clearly an attempt to show that the state callously allowed the destruction of cultural properties in the past, thus showing that the state does not care for Hawaiian issues and would break its own laws.

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Were the telescopes built without permits?

This is another fairly common myth about the existing telescopes on Mauna Kea, that most of the telescopes were built without permits or issued “after-the-fact” permits after construction.

UH88 under the Milky Way
The UH88 telescope under the stars of the Milky Way

This is another myth built on a kernel of truth, the two earliest of the remaining thirteen telescopes were built without proper conservation district use permits in place. What is now Hoku Kea was built by the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratories and given to the university a couple years later. The UH88 was built by the University of Hawaii in 1968.

As this was the State of Hawaii building on state land, apparently things were a bit lax. In retrospect this is no surprise, the state government was scarcely a decade old at this point and many of the administrative rules and regulations we now take for granted were still being written and implemented.

This is where the myth comes in, as somehow the other telescopes are accused of the same issue. The claim often made is that “most of these structures were un-permitted”. This is often claimed as part of the evidence for mismanagement by the university.

This is incorrect… All of the remaining telescopes were built with proper permits in place. The key permits are the Conservation District Use Permits or CDUP’s that allow the use of state land on the summit of Mauna Kea. Permit numbers and dates are listed in the table below…

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Was the real summit of Mauna Kea destroyed to make way for a telescope?

The idea that one of the existing telescopes sits on what was the real summit of Mauna Kea is persistent.

Mauna Kea Summit Alexander 1892
Mauna Kea summit as surveyed by W. D. Alexander in 1892

and NO there is NO RECTIFYING of the DAMAGES TO MAUNA KEA!!! Damnit man they sheered OFF the summit to INSERT the Kecks into The Pu’u that was the SUMMIT. What an ignorant thing to say!!!

Susan Rosier in a Facebook comment, 4 Aug 2019

While not a common claim this idea keeps popping up. It was even repeated by Kealoha Pisciotta under oath during the contested case. In her case she claimed it was the nearby summit ridge that was shaved off, and they “just moved the summit”.

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The observatories pay no rent?

There are two thing that opponents neglect to mention in this accusation. The observatories do pay the state money, quite a bit actually, about $4.4 million per year. Opponents also fail to understand why that $1 rent came about and the history of astronomy on the mauna.

The Keck telescopes at sunrise
The Keck telescopes at sunrise

In often nasty accusations, the $1 rent is used to imply that the observatories get a free ride, costing the state and county, and therefore the taxpayers. This is the part that is completely false, the observatories not only pay their share of costs, but have significantly benefited the island economy in very direct ways.

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