There has been a tangible shift in mood on the mountain. I sense this change in all I talk to. The sentiment toward the TMT protesters has turned from one of tolerance to active hostility. They crossed a line, and I think everyone knows it, including the protesters.
From everyone’s comments it was the blocking and damage to the summit road that was the critical moment. There has always been a certain sympathy for the protesters among the mountain crews. We may disagree, but at least we understand the source of that disagreement. We are Americans, with an understanding of the right to protest, of respect for those who stand up for their beliefs.
That has changed.
Everyone who works on the mountain understands that the road is an absolutely vital link. It is the only means by which to evacuate the summit in an emergency, the only route by which help can come in the case of trouble. Contrary to many glib Facebook assertions our local fire department helicopters can not operate safely at high elevation. I have seen comments by protesters that downplay the danger, they simply do not understand the seriousness of their actions.
Meanwhile, the mainstream media has been parroting this “public safety concern” language. Of course, they are trying to deceive the public into thinking the Mauna Kea Protectors and the pohaku present the safety hazard. They are lying. – Will Falk
“Pohaku” is of course the Hawaiian word for stone. In his writing Will waxes poetic about the effort and the beauty of placing the rocks on the road, then calls the safety concerns “lying”. His casual disregard for safety is distressing, and typical of those who simply disrespect the mountain, her beauty and her risks.
We who live and work on Mauna Kea have seen her in all her moods, have been there to administer oxygen and evacuate those suffering altitude sickness, have helped our fellows out of wrecked vehicles. We are all trained in basic first aid and many as first responders, the emergency procedures are well rehearsed. We take safety very, very seriously.
In practical terms the placement of obstructions in the road ranges from criminal mischief to possible negligent homicide. One rock deliberately placed in the road, one rock not seen in the dark and the fog that plagues that road nightly can result in damage to a vehicle or even the death of the driver and passengers. This could and does simply happen naturally, a rock that tumbles into the road as a result of wind and rain. There is a difference when someone deliberately, and with no thought to the consequences, does this with callous disregard.
The sympathy many of us have felt towards the protesters is mostly gone, the situation growing ever more adversarial. I think even the protesters know this, their presence on the mountain dwindling under the increased pressure. The TMT crews will come up again, and the protesters will come as well. But this time the protesters will face a different situation.