Disclaimer: The following rather harsh critique is strictly limited to the impact of the Moore Foundation’s funding of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) via CalTech and the University of CA–as it affects Mauna Kea–and is not meant as a sweeping generalization of the funding impacts of other grants to other organizations, projects, peoples, or parts of the world. Let’s just be clear about that.
There’s No Place Like Home
Two years ago, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (GBMF), published a piece in the Learning section of their website called “Perspective: Grateful for this place we call home,” The photograph accompanying this article is a sweeping panorama of South Bay hills that certainly would not be as lovely should an 18-story telescope be built on the skyline. What follows is a quote from the piece:
“Silicon Valley is the place we call home. Our founders, Gordon and Betty Moore, spent most of their lives and raised their family in this region. It is the place where Gordon co-founded two iconic companies – Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel. And, it is where our foundation is located.
A passion for this region is in our DNA.”
One could be forgiven for thinking that such heartfelt boilerplate is evidence that the grantmaking heads of this foundation are capable of recognizing and honoring the family values and “passion for a region” that the Kanaka Maoli have for Mauna Kea and the rest of their ‘aina. After all, the Kanaka have lived in their island home as far back as 400 C.E. Very old families, one might say.
By contrast, the Moore family has just a few generations of California settler-colonial history and yet claim “DNA-based” ties to their beloved Silicon Valley. I agree, humanity in general has the capacity to become deeply rooted in place–even new places–and can be passionate about those roots. If just a generation or two of settlement history can twang the DNA heartstrings of a Gordon and Betty, imagine the depth, the extent of the love, the connection, the ancestral ties felt by the Kanaka Maoli (and other indigenous peoples) who have hundreds and thousands of years of family history invested in their homelands.
One might think an organization of broad and beneficent vision, as expressed in the Moore Foundation “perspectives,” would be able to “grok” this, but I suppose the unalloyed enjoyment of “passion for a region” is something allowed only to the very, very wealthy.
Speaking of indigenous people, where did the first peoples of the Silicon Valley go? Oh yes, didn’t California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, just apologize in June for the genocidal slaughter of a majority of California’s first peoples, starting in 1850?
As for the legacy of soil and groundwater contamination created by Gordon Moore’s semi-conductor companies, now Superfund Clean-up sites…
…Lovely view of the valley, don’t you think?
The Thirty Meter Telescope – 18 Stories of Desecration Planned for a Sacred Mountain
Making science, exploring the universe, discovering new galaxies, teetering on the rim of black hole event horizons–astronomy is the good guy, right? Who could object to it? Well, blithe star-bitten glamour aside, objections can be made to doing astronomy in a place and in a way that causes immense harm to any indigenous people who revere that place. It’s not the astronomy that’s objectionable, folks, it’s the location, location, location!
This 2017 film chronicles 50 years of gross mismanagement of Mauna Kea and the destruction wrought by telescope development. Only six minutes long.
Below you can see how much this dream of science means to the Moore Foundation. Here is what they have invested in the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT)–a project always depicted in magical-thinking public relations “photos” as a structure already built on Mauna Kea, complete with a night sky of stars twinkling in the background–beckoning idealistic astronomers from afar. The same night sky, by the way, that Hawaiians and their ancestors have been accustomed to look upon with unimpeded views and important sight lines, from the summit of one of their most sacred places in all the islands, all the way over to Haleakala (another sacred mountain) on Maui and beyond.
The sums below represent how badly the GBMF and other TMT-on-Mauna Kea proponents want to get their way. Much is at stake. But still more is at stake for the Kanaka Maoli, their descendants, and the Mauna itself.
Anthony Trollope, a Victorian novelist once wrote, “I have sometimes thought that there is no being so venomous, so bloodthirsty as a professed philanthropist.” This is from his novel, North America, published in 1862. Times have not changed. I found Trollope’s quote in an article called “Toxic Philanthropy? The Spirit of Giving While Taking” (Lynn Parramore, Dec. 10, 2018). The article discussed Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, a book by business reporter Anand Giridharadas. The article was published on the website of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, co-founded by George Soros. (Link to board and staff page.)
Though the book apparently focuses mostly on a new generation of “21st-century ‘philanthrocapitalists,’” two paragraphs of the review seem relevant to classic brand of philanthropy now affecting Mauna Kea:
“Giridharadas presents searching conversations with well-educated, often well-meaning people floating above and apart from the lives of ordinary Americans, wishing to ease their consciences but failing both to clearly see the problems of society and to notice, for more than a nagging moment, the ways in which their own lives are financed by the fruits of injustice. They end up embracing a warm-and-fuzzy vision of changing the world that leaves brutal underlying structures securely in place.
The author has said what few who have traveled in this world have said plainly, lest their passport be revoked: the efforts of philanthrocapitalists are largely disruptive, rather than beneficial, to public life.”
Ruthless self-examination might be in order for the philanthropic community, especially powerful grantmakers like the Moore Foundation. Such examination and organizational assessment might reveal their own (even if inadvertant) complicity in past and present acts that perpetuate cultural violence and genocide. This is the kind of self-examination that people in other walks of life are just now starting to embark upon.
The communication model known as the Johari Window, particularly that upper right hand corner called “known to others, not known to self,” can be an effective way to approach unacknowledged privilege and entitlement assumptions, factors that cause “good” intentions, and “good” works to pave a “road to hell” for others. Sometimes we cannot see ourselves in the mirror, in the same way that others see us, looking in.
Right now, those who stand on or with Mauna Kea see “in” to the GBMF and its associates, with devastating accuracy.
Checking Your Privilege and Complicity
As of Sunday morning, July 21st, at 7:37 AM PSDT, 698 astronomers (and a few academics in other fields) have signed the letter (1) condemning the arrests of kupuna on Mauna Kea last Wednesday and (2) inviting “the astronomy community to suggest more links and ideas on how to divest from using state-sanctioned violence in the construction of facilities for our field’s future.” This is a long-overdue invitation, from within that rarified community, to consider the ethical implications of how and where they do their science, and at what cost to others.
And as mentioned in an earlier blog post, this week 100 religious leaders also signed a letter of inter-faith solidarity, recognizing the spiritual traditions of Kanaka Maoli as equally valid as their own. Many of the people signing are associated with religious institutions which have their own historical complicity of disregarding native traditions and/or causing colonial and state-sanctioned violence (e.g. missionary work in Hawai’i; stones from sacred heiau used to build churches, etc.). Here is an excerpt from that letter:
“The controversy surrounding the TMT telescope continues to highlight the struggle of native peoples to protect and preserve their sacred sites from desecration.
We the undersigned have a responsibility not to stay silent in the face of injustice. We are not against science or scientific research. But it should be done in an appropriate location.
Building one more gigantic telescope on our sacred mountain might harm the natural environment, and the spiritual integrity. In light of recent arrest of kupuna, in the act of peaceful civil disobedience, the questionable telescope project is certainly harming the deep peace of our Hawaiian community!
Some may disagree, but we believe the mountain belongs to the Kanaka maoli. It is part of their homeland.
And they must have a say about what to do and what not to do on their sacred land! We offer our prayers in solidarity with all our kanaka maoli sisters and brothers who feel oppressed, bullied, and not listened to.”
Let’s remember too that all this is taking place in the context of the present and historical belligerent occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom, an occupation which has ongoing political, cultural, social, legal, economic, environmental, and personal and community health impacts, etc., on Kanaka Maoli since 1893. (Other Hawaiian Kingdom subjects were people from elsewhere who were naturalized before 1893).
To put it clearly, the above describes a state of ongoing, pervasive violence for generations, mostly impacting the Kanaka Maoli, who–if you remember from above–have a deep and abiding attachment and relationship to their ‘aina, their ancestors, and to their spiritual relationships to na akua (the deities) or ke akua (one deity). Multi-generational trauma is a comparatively recent development in psychology, pioneered by Dr. Joy DeGruy and others. It is now widely accepted by in the field of psychology. Trauma can become part our DNA and is passed to our children and grandchildren.
(Did we mention the view yet?)
Though Kanaka are not monolithic in their spiritual beliefs and traditions, it is probably safe to say–given the widespread support given to the Kia’i–that Mauna Kea is foundational and sacred, as a cultural icon, as a place of deep cultural significance, and as a felt, ancestral, spiritual presence (and a place that is the home of other deities as well.)
Back to the Future We Don’t Want: The Cycle of Philanthropic Violence
There’s quite a lot about how the TMT project has tromped on Kanaka Maoli and their indigenous rights and traditions that reminds me of an abuser who insists that you’ll enjoy it if only you’d relax and give in. Or perhaps the forces behind the TMT are inherantly sociopathic, determined to win at any cost, crushing whoever and whatever gets in their way.
Seriously. I am seriously saying this.
Sociopaths begin by charming others. Philanthropists charm others by holding out the prospect of a juicy grant for a project. “Court me as a major donor,” they wink, but nothing is free, and the power that money wields is everything.
I’ve watched the growth of the movement for the Mauna, and against telescope desecration, for many years now. I remember things. So as sort of thought experiment, I’d like us to consider the abusive nature of the TMT project, its impact on the Kanaka Maoli as a series of deliberate non-consensual violations and micro- and macroaggressions causing physical and psychological harm to other human beings. These violations have already caused multi-generational trauma for a large number of people. They already affect multiple generations. (The protectors of Mauna Kea range from toddlers to people in their 90s.)
Some of what I describe below may fit into the pattern of the above chart, some may not. I actually feel that we’re seeing several swirling cycles of corporate, government, and philanthropic abuse happening simultaneously, at different paces, originating from different groups of pro-TMT stakeholders.
For this thought experiment, you can imagine “The Abuser” as a Frankenstein’s Monster, a sort of golem animated and fed by philanthropic, governmental, and corporate privilege AND the sum total of all actions taken to advance that being’s agenda on Mauna Kea.
(1) The Abuser makes an initial threat of violence–in this case, the threatened desecration of a sacred place of ancestral and spiritual significance, in spite of legal, cultural, and environmental objections. It will not listen when you say “no” and it will not stop.
Remember, Hawai’i has a “state” law, §711-1107, against desecration which incorporates the concept of “outrage” as one of the standards for determining that desecration has taken place. Outrage is a way of saying “no!” The law is supposed to make violators listen.
(2) Reports of outrage and harm are dismissed by authorities–or reluctantly heard and reported. No one does much of anything to uphold the law or prevent further violations. Plus, authorities often blame the targets for the harm that is done to them. The blame could sound like this. You wouldn’t have been hurt:
• IF only you wore something different. For example, ” That Kia’i hat? You look like you’re asking for trouble!”
• IF you assimilated more fully. For example, “If you were more like the settler-colonists here, you wouldn’t care and this would be a non-issue.”
• IF you felt completely differently about what is happening. For example, “What educated person would claim to be related to a mountain? Who has DNA with a landscape feature? Surely we don’t do that sort of thing in Silicon Valley.”
• IF you tried to look on the bright side. For example, “Hey, at least The Abuser is promising you a job and money for STEM education. Suck it up!”
And then there’s the dismissal: “You’ll get over it.”
(3) The Abuser questions the status and/or sincerity of the person complaining. This was in play during moments in various hearings when Kia’i were asked, in so many words, “Are you a REAL Hawaiian? Do you really do that cultural practitioner stuff? Prove it.”
(4) The Abuser gaslights, attempting to sow self-doubt:
• “Conservation district regulations have to be taken seriously? Silly! No one pays attention to those. Look at all the telescopes that are here already!”
• “No one actually tried to hit you with a car on the Access Road while you were protecting the Mauna. You must have imagined it.”
• “No one around here would have dismantled your ‘ahu. You must be crazy to think that.”
• “We don’t really want to deny you your constitutional rights of access to cultural and sacred places, we’re just worried about your health and safety.”
• “A bond? What bond?”
(5) In addition to direct threats, The Abuser threatens to harm other things or people if you don’t give in. Examples:
• arrests of kupuna with an implied promise of more arrests to come;
• Ige’s Declaration of a State of Emergency and calls for National Guard and additional police from other islands;
• the project’s potential to harm to na ‘iwi (remains of the ancestors), endangered bugs and plants, pu’u and other features of the Mauna. And so forth.
(6) The Abuser creates a climate of fear. See 5. Also, retaliating against potential or actual allies, as was done to at least one porta-potty contractor, who was threatened with fines.
(7) The Abuser placates:
• “We’ll make a committee to oversee cultural practices on the mountain. Wouldn’t that be nice?”
• “We’ll give more money for STEM education.”
• “I’m like you. I just want to go up to the mountain to pray.” (A reference to Ige’s visit to the Mauna in 2015).
(8) The Abuser retaliates by controling the movement and behavior of the target. For example, cultural practitioners have been denied their access to the Mauna for quite a long time now, in violation of their traditional and customary rights as per the state constitution. Or maybe–if they promise to be good–they could be allowed to travel up the mountain in special, supervised vans. The astronomers, including many foreigners, get complete unimpeded access. But the Kanaka cultural practitioners are treated like unruly children.
TRADITIONAL AND CUSTOMARY RIGHTS
Section 7. The State reaffirms and shall protect all rights, customarily and traditionally exercised for subsistence, cultural and religious purposes and possessed by ahupua’a tenants who are descendants of native Hawaiians who inhabited the Hawaiian Islands prior to 1778, subject to the right of the State to regulate such rights. [Add Const Con 1978 and election Nov 7, 1978]
(9) The Abuser lies about the target in order to marginalize, isolate, and undermine social support for the target. Example: “There are drugs and alcohol at Pu’u Huluhulu” to smear the Kia’i as irresponsible people who are desecrating their own sacred space. There’s a world of wrongdoing in this particular lie. This tactic also plays to racism against Kanaka Maoli.
And so on… It’s an ugly portrait of cycles of abuse writ large, but cognitive dissonance, defined as “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change” allows philanthropic elites to avoid recognizing the impact of their actions on people whose rights and interests they dismiss.
Why So Much Good Work Elsewhere, and So Little Similar Concern for Kanaka Maoli, for Mauna Kea, and for Hawai’i?
Now, I’ve been hard on a lot of people here, particularly the Moore Foundation, and yet I do want to be fair. I’ve scanned many pages of Moore Foundation giving histories and they give to a number of causes and organizations that I personally support–or would like to support (had I the funds).
Here are some examples of good work the Foundation has done elsewhere, which demonstrate a history of goodwill, humanitarian values, and a thoughtfulness that could easily be extended to Mauna Kea and its protectors.
Conservation of native habitat and species. “Since 2001, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s Bay Area conservation portfolio has been supporting groups working to conserve native habitat and species in the San Francisco Bay Area.” (March 2017)
Since Mauna Kea is a sensitive environment, legally a conservation district, and is already experiencing “serious, adverse impacts” as a result of the industrial-strength astronomy already in place on Mauna Kea, the Moore Foundation could easily reconsider their attachment to Mauna Kea as the site of the TMT, as such a decision would be congruent with their own vaunted conservation consciousness.
Recognition of Indigenous Lands. “The Colombian Amazon stretches across nearly half of the country, and is a priority region for the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s Andes-Amazon Initiative. Moore funding has supported the creation and consolidation of protected areas, and recognition and management of indigenous lands.” (Feb. 2017)
Again, in the interest of congruence with vaunted concerns about protecting indigenous areas, the Moore Foundation could easily comprehend that Mauna Kea IS indigenous land in need of protection, and act accordingly.
Women in science — making the invisible, visible. “The data on the dearth of women in science is clear and far reaching. Women are underrepresented along the pathway from undergraduate to faculty to leadership positions in most research and scientific communities. This is particularly true for women of color.” (Feb. 2018)
Great. Yay for figuring that out. However, I do wonder why some of that concern for “invisible” women of color can’t be extended to the Kanaka Maoli, people “of color” in Hawai’i, who seem to be invisible to the Moore Foundation and its TMT collaborators? It would be really easy to achieve cognitive congruence by resisting the urge to mentally erase the concerns of people of color who are standing in the way of your pet project.
The importance of accuracy in science journalism. The Moore Foundation showed its concern about “pressing issues of accuracy and honesty in media” by giving support to a report issued by “Knight Science Journalism at MIT”: The State of Fact-Checking in Science Journalism.” (Sept. 2018)
I hope the future of fact-checking in science journalism includes facts about cultural, social, and physical/mental health impacts of large-scale projects in indigenous places, in spite of the objections of residents.
New training on working with government officials guides private foundations to stay in compliance with the law. Here’s an interesting one! A concern for philanthropic compliance with the law, including interactions with government officials. (Jan. 2016).
Now, the Moore Foundation gives to the TMT project through donations to CalTech and the University of California. I am sure this is all right and proper, with the added advantage that this strategy of giving places the foundation carefully upstream from the numerous downstream violations to Hawai’i law on behalf of the TMT. I am no expert in the conservation district violations that would occur should TMT break ground, but I know people who are. I understand there are at least eight serious violations. I’ve also mentioned the Hawai’i state law against desecration (above), with its the criteria of causing outrage, as well as the violations of traditional and customary rights guaranteed to the Kanaka Maoli by the State of Hawai’i. Not to mention arrests for advocating for those laws and rights to be upheld. I am sure there is more that could be said.
So I would think respect for Hawai’i laws and indigenous rights would be an appropriate concern for a foundation seeking to do things in a legal and ethical manner. Such consideration would be congruent with the stated interests and values of the organization.
And just because I’m an unrepentant gadfly, I would also recommend that the Moore Foundation begin to enfold consideration of the Resolution 61/295: United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) (2007). This resolution does not have the force of law, and apparently the U.S. has not agreed to sign it. However, the resolution does have the force of moral high ground and integrity. The entire document is relevant to the struggle to protect Mauna Kea, but I’ve picked out three of the Articles, so you don’t have to take my word for it:
1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practise, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of their ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of their human remains.
I would think that any entity as wealthy and powerful as the Moore Foundation could use UNDRIP as part of their criteria for assessing grant proposals which might impact indigenous peoples and lands. It would be so appreciated and set a good example for others in the philanthropic community.
The beauty of Kapu Aloha as practiced by the Kia’i is that enduring enmity does not have to be born of conflict. What has been enacted these last several years has provided unexpected, complicated lessons (and a great deal of stress) for all concerned, whether intimately involved or watching from afar. All that the Moore Foundation and other TMT stakeholders need to do is (1) agree to not build the TMT on Mauna Kea or any other place in Hawai’i and (2) sincerely apologize to the Kanaka Maoli. It would be so philanthropic!
Then the beauty of forgiveness and aloha can be extended. Healing can begin. (And all the while, the beauty of Kapu Aloha is thriving and growing at Pu’uhonua o Pu’u Huluhulu.)
As one of the Kia’i said in the Friday press conference, there is no aloha without truth–and what is contained in this blog is part of the truth and a perspective seldom offered to a popular audience. But I admit, I’ve been a bit snarky here and there, so kala mai!
I hold strong hopes for the triumph of the Kia’i and the protection of the Mauna, as well as the construction of the TMT in some other location (they do have a “Plan B”). And strong hopes too that the executives of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation might stand with us and peer into the upper right hand corner of their own Johari Window, clearly seeing the opportunities to correct misalignment with their stated values and mission, making common cause instead of inflicting corporatized cruelty.
Let what happens next be in perfect congruence and accord with Hawaiian values. It’s the only way.
Ku Kia’i Mauna!