A Change in Mood on the Mountain

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.

Ahu in the Road
An ahu built in the downhill lane of the Mauna Kea summit access road
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.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

5 thoughts on “A Change in Mood on the Mountain”

  1. A well-written post, Andrew, and can’t disagree with anything you wrote. The protesters blocking the road to everyone, whether they were at the VIS, HP or the summit was a game changer. Summit staff also met outright intimidation and hostility that day when they attempted to get to the summit. That’s not something easy to forget.

  2. More twisting facts Propaganda, Nothing has Changed! Picking at small points, when the Bigger Issues of : Freedom of Religion & Assembly ; State of Hawaii’s Ancestral Burial Laws; native Hawaiians & their descendants Rights to Free Access to worship in their Temple ( Hei’au Nui), to gather, fish & hunt as Did their OverThrown Kingdom of Hawai’i. And Out & out Racist Slander & demeaning of the Aborginal People who ya’ll want to Dismiss away. . . No Mood has Changed, if Anything We are more Resolved to Ho’oPonoPono the HewaHewa on Mauna Kea a Wakea.

    Projecting Ugly is But a Reflection of Yourself & dark Intentions towards People practicing Kapu ‘AloHa (non-violence) & Love for Our Sacred Mauna. Shame On U!!!

    1. At this point I should point out that I am native, Native American that is, with much the same history and many of the same issues. I have seen the terms racist and hate thrown about all too freely in the controversy. TMT is not an attack on the people of Hawai’i, despite being cast that way by you and many in your cause. And yes, the mood has changed and everyone on both sides knows it.

  3. I appreciate the concern and sentiment of this blogs author. I used to work on the summit myself for Subaru telescope. Safety of this access road is number one for all the reasons mentioned.

    I was also on the mountain that day, Wednesday, June 24th 2015. I have first hand knowledge of what happened, and will provide another viewpoint for consideration. I was part of a line holding prayer at about the one mile marker. While the presence of pohaku on the road did indeed block traffic from coming up for a short time, traffic coming down was allowed through by our clearing the road for them. The rocks on the road did not block the road for very long that day, a few hours at most. When the construction vehicles and the DLNR turned around at 12:45pm and it was clear their attempts at reaching the summit were cancelled for the day, all of us began clearing the road of the rocks. Several vehicles came down from the summit, all of them safely and without damage. On Thursday many of us assisted the rangers in clearing the road of all rocks. At no point were stones thrown at vehicles, people or any other hazard causing injury.

    The road has been safe for travel without incident since Friday morning, June 26th. I believe the case for safety hazard has been blown way out of proportion. Add to that the hazards of allowing visitors to reach the visitor center only to find that all water and bathroom services have been shutdown and remain shutdown to this day. There have been hundreds of visitors in the last few days, many of them asking “where is the bathroom?” In what I believe is an overreaction to our protest, the same agencies claiming to look out for our safety are the ones putting us at greatest risk.Lets stop playing this as a safety issue and start looking at what is really going on.

    1. Thanks for the direct account of the day’s events!

      I did break your text into a couple paragraphs, it makes it easier to read, and this should be read.

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