Disclosure: I write from the perspective of someone who is quite socially isolated due to 30 years of living with multiple chemical sensitivities and environmental illnesses–finding most environments and many people harmful to my health due to use of consumer toxins. I am also isolated through geographical distance from my closest friends and family. Social isolation is the curse of my situation, but an outsider’s perspective is the gift.
When my oldest child, Asher, was only three, he was overheard speaking to a dog: “Puppy, do you know what it’s like to be human? It’s kind of a job, being alive.” Three years old and already that perceptive. Yikes!
When my youngest child turned three, on the evening of his birthday, he turned a gaze on me that was clearly the spirit of the “big” Paul looking through the eyes of a little boy. It was a gaze that shook me to my core for hours afterward. I have never in my life had such a look from any human being.
I am not saying my children are special (though of course I think they are) but that I was lucky enough to hear and perceive things that I might have easily missed. I believe all children provide such moments. Whether the adults heed them is another matter.
So what does it mean to be a human being? At the moment I write with a kitten in my arms. She has inserted herself between me and the keyboard and so I am leaning over her to type. It’s a perfect example of one kind of human role–as a mediator between tech and animal life. She dozes with her head on my left forearm. She trusts me. And yet I am a member of a species which has accomplished the most profound betrayal of all–the collective, burgeoning destruction of every ecosystem on this planet that we share. And so I love my cats in the way that I love my children–with deep regret and sorrow at my share in this betrayal of trust.
And yet I’ve lived for thirty years as a “canary in the coal mine,” an activist mom warning about the dangers of household and industrial chemicals. No one much has listened to me, or to others like me, so I now refer to us as “Cassandras in the coal mine” (because people at least paid attention to the warning songs of canaries). But I am still complicit. Every mouthful of food that I eat, the clothes on my back, and almost every item I own are the direct result of income or goods produced by someone working his/her/zir/their ass off in a toxic industry –from my ex-husband to workers I’ll never meet–and probably destined to suffer from health consequences as a result. (FYI–my own condition is also due to occupational exposure, years ago.)
Yesterday I wrote about the complicity of settler-colonist genealogy–of facing the almost certain fact of ancestors who perpetuated numerous incidents of brutality and cruelty against the first peoples of Turtle Island, and probably also against victims of American chattel slavery. And if there weren’t always direct actions on the part of my ancestors, there were/are the social, economic, political, system-wide benefits and privileges that came from being an oppressor, rather than one of the oppressed. I am struggling to recognize and disengage from the ongoing inclinations and assumptions that attend these genealogies while also trying to recognize and disengage–as much as possible–from my participation in malignant, toxic, consumer culture.
And yet, I reconize that in some essential way I lack the tools or skills or mindsets that could enable me to fully function with other people in a wholesome, collaborative, and productve way–a way that I identify (from afar) as being “fully human.” But it’s not just me. All around me are (mostly) white people who have good hearts, intelligence, creativity, compassion, some understanding of social justice issues and certainly the understanding of the urgency of our climate crisis, and yet we just can’t seem to function effectively together! There always seem to be egos and agendas, mean girl machinations and mansplaining obfuscation, and all kinds of other weird-ass territorial factors at play. Why is this?
And all around me are my cis-female friends of “a certain age,” who are also socially isolated, economically disadvantaged, and in other ways marginalized, who know we have entered the twilight zone of the socially disposable and thus need to band together to take care of each other, and yet we just can’t manage to plan and strategize on how to do this, how to pool our limited resources and join together to mutual advantage. We know the need, we might have some skills, but not the collective will? Why is this?
For several years now, I’ve come to understand that our settler-colonist, capitalist, consumer culture does not help us learn to Play Well With Others. I have watched other cultural communities, from the ally sidelines, do much much better in terms of coming together, organizing, and providing what is needful with a generosity of spirit that is–to me–miraculous. And yet I understand these capacities are what it takes to be “fully human.”
Earlier today I listened to the Democracy Now interview with Lakota historian, scholar, and activist Nick Estes, author of Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance. His description of the camp at Standing Rock parallels the conditions currently at the Kia’i (protector) encampment at Pu’uhonua o Pu’uhuluhulu in Hawai’i, at Mauna Kea.
Here are his words from the Democracy Now interview:
“And in the camps themselves you had sort of the primordial sort of beginnings of what a world premised on indigenous justice might look like. And in that world, you know, everyone got free food. There was a place for everyone. You know, the housing, obviously, was transient housing and teepees and things like that, but then also there was health clinics to provide healthcare, alternative forms of healthcare, to everyone. And so, if we look at that, it’s housing, education — all for free, right? — a strong sense of community. And for a short time, there was free education at the camps, right? Those are things that most poor communities in the United States don’t have access to, and especially reservation communities.
But given the opportunity to create a new world in that camp, centered on indigenous justice and treaty rights, society organized itself according to need and not to profit. And so, where there was, you know, the world of settlers, settler colonialism, that surrounded us, there was the world of indigenous justice that existed for a brief moment in time. And in that world, instead of doing to settler society what they did to us — genociding, removing, excluding — there’s a capaciousness to indigenous resistance movements that welcomes in nonindigenous peoples into our struggle, because that’s our primary strength, is one of relationality, one of making kin, right?”
Now there’s a danger in romanticizing this as something “those others” do–which can come close to the old “noble savage” crap of yore–and I am aware of that. I’m also grumpy about white people saying that indigenous people are going to save us all now from climate catastrophe (i.e. clean up a mess that was never theirs)–even though they often have little in the way of power or resources. This mindset sidesteps the need for settler-colonists and their corporations and political representatives to drastically change everything about the systems that are running dangerously amok.
In order to avoid that dangerous and ultimately unproductive mindset, we who are settler-colonists have to continue to swing back to a recognition of where we ourselves are now and with that recognition of our deficits and their origins, work double time to develop capactities and understandings necessary for “relationality,” as Professor Estes says above. Doing this is going to take a helluva lot of humility. I’m sixty-five now, and I’m willing to go back to human “kindergarten” (as long as it’s in a fragrance free zone).
What follows is a speculative question. Is it possible that the epigenetic expression of European-originating people was triggered toward self-centeredness, violence, conquest, and greed due to long histories of violent subjugation by Romans (as one example) and others, and by exposures to such things as wars and continent-wide plagues, where bodies piled in mass graves could have fostered a sort of despair and then an unconcern about the preciousness of life? An even bigger speculative question: can we willfully trigger another kind of epigenetic expression in real time, to call back the capacties our ancestors must surely have had in the long ago? The kind that enabled us to live in villages, farm or forage for food, and provide care and sustenance for all? The kind that enabled us to see other creatures in this world–plant, animal, and spirit–as worthy of respect and kinship?
And can this be done in record time, to meet the climate and environmental/political catastrophes that are no longer a train wreck in slow motion?
Personally, it is hard to reach out toward others in real life, to work on my skills for “relationality,” when my condition requires this degree of isolation in lieu of disability accommodation. My activist efforts in the past have seldom been met with understanding–because this whole environmental illness request for fragrance-free accommodation thing can look like a “special snowflake” or “white lady” way to, I dunno, derail or disrupt others and the work that is being done. It can look and feel like a request for more privilege and special treatment from a white settler-colonist who is already inherently privileged by other aspects of my circumstances. And so my blogs are the only way I can reach out. Writing about what I see and feel is all I can do at this point.
I wish it were otherwise. I truly do wish to be of use in creating a better world. Like everyone else, I have the future of cats and children–and all living beings and our only planet–to consider.
“It’s kind of a job–being alive.” And right now our biggest job is to keep everything else alive too. It’s really down to that.
Un-Thanksgiving Day, the Indigenous People’s Sunrise Ceremony at Alcatraz Island, is taking place even as I write. Several Kanaka Maoli (Hawaiian) activists are participating this year–they’re here in CA to spread the word about protecting sacred Mauna Kea, and more!
Today, November 28th is also La Ku’oko’a –Hawaiian Independence Day.
Each observance counteracts destructive, colonial myths that cover up uncomfortable historical facts, allowing (mostly) white people and power structures to “rest easy” with continued persecution, exploitation, and bodily harm of (1) the native peoples of Turtle Island (aka North American continent); and (2) the native peoples of the Hawaiian archipelago, who happened to have had an internationally recognized constitutional monarchy–the Hawaiian Kingdom–that was taken by the United States through violence and deception.
The True Story of Thanksgiving
I learned this history several years ago, when I first saw the Susan Bates article below, published on the Manataka American Indian Council website.
As a settler-colonist descendent of hundreds of New England colonizers, including Richard and Elizabeth Warren of the Mayflower, I have gone from deeply uncomfortable to deeply adverse to “celebrating” the American Thanksgiving, once I learned the truth. While my kids still lived at home, we continued to “celebrate” with a family meal, attempting (probably unsuccessfully) to emphasize personal thanks “for all we had” and downplay the shitty facts of our heritage. Now I wish we’d just chucked the whole thing as soon as we began to hear the truth about the holiday–it would have been more honest–but our family was already falling apart. A festive family meal with the children was one of our last pretenses of unity and “normalcy,” along with Christmas.
But even this futile attempt to justify our observance of Thanksgiving didn’t change the fact that the descendents of Richard and Elizabeth Warren, and possibly other ancestors of mine, were Plymouth residents and must have been in some way complicit in the 1637 massacre of the Wampanoag village (mentioned in the articles below). Richard Warren himself didn’t last long in the “new world”–he died in 1628. His first son, Nathaniel, was only twelve in 1637. I would hope that boys that young were not enlisted to help slaughter human beings, but who knows? And what may he have done in later years? Also, Richard Warren’s widow, Elizabeth, died in her 90’s. We often overlook the role of settler-colonial women in upholding and inciting harsh measures against indigenous people (and slaves)–so one of my creepy questions is, who was she and what did she advocate?
(FYI–My ex-husband’s family also has a long colonial settler history, though further south, in Kentucky and elsewhere.)
And so I have to recognize that like every other white person in this country, my family and I benefit from privileges which began with “manifest destiny” and genocide and which continue with legal, political, economic, and other systems and policies designed to destroy and disadvantage native people, and other people of color, in every possible way.
Here are several links to information about the true history of Thanksgiving.
Bates, Susan. The Real Story of Thanksgiving, Manataka American Indian Council website. You can also find two more articles on this page.
Blow, Charles M. The Horrible History of Thanksgiving, New York Times, Nov. 27, 2019.
Bugos, Claire. The Myths of the Thanksgiving Story and the Lasting Damage They Imbue, Smithsonian Magazine, Nov. 26, 2019. This is an interview with David J. Silverman, author of This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving (published Nov. 2019).
Rikert, Levi. Leonard Peltier’s 2019 Thanksgiving Message: “Walking on Stolen Land.” Native News Online. Nov. 23, 2019.
The True History of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the U.S. Occupation
This is a complicated matter, lasting over a century. For one of the best accounts, go to the Political History page of the Hawaiian Kingdom website.
Even here I have a slight personal connection as a junior settler-colonist. My father (now deceased), a PanAm pilot, moved my mother, brother, and me to Honolulu shortly after the 1959 fraudulent “statehood” vote. He probably sensed some kind of opportunity to exploit, but my father and mother were not happy together. They soon separated, bound for divorce. So we flew back to San Diego, leaving behind my father and that rather bleak cinderblock apartment on Lipe’epe’e Street in Waikiki.
Today a Time of Reflection
While native activists from Oceania and Turtle Island meet and make common cause–which is a joyous and wonderful thing–we settler colonists have our own work to do. It’s difficult to disengage from complicity, from the horrifying tendrils which link our lives to the larger abhorent structures destroying the entire planet now–not just “reservations” and “ghettos” and “houseless encampments” where those “other” people live (often with inadequate or polluted water, air, and soil).
So the first thing we settler colonists need to do is know the truth, understand the implications, and do whatever we can to disengage from complicity. Perhaps then we might be suitably prepared to assist in common cause with native peoples and work together to save this planet we all share.
Nov. 23 UPDATE: Link to a blog post signal boosting the leadership of black trans women and other trans and gender diverse POC in the work against violence and for health and vibrancy in their communities. Includes links to several articles in Out Magazine and Essence by Raquel Willis, founder of Black Trans Circles (video here!).
Later today I will light a candle and read the names of all the 369 murdered people aloud, as a reminder to step up my game. My heart is heavy. That is all.
Later: here is the reading below. Listen, or better yet, read the names aloud yourself. It takes about an hour.
They don’t know it, but the Boulet Brothers and three seasons of Dragula have joined my private and exclusive cluster of “writer’s muses” for my fantasy novel in progress, The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. (Here’s the Season 1 premiere of Dragula, on YouTube. Season 2 and 3 are on Netflix.) The goal of Dragula is to create “the Next Drag SuperMonster.” Their guiding principles are “drag, filth, horror, glamour” (and “punk” in the first season).
My goal is to complete the first draft of my second novel in the Ornamental Hermits fantasy series. My guilding principles are “magic, punk, art, glamour.” (I’m not so down with “filth” as I’ve changed far too many diapers in my time, and currently empty seven cat boxes twice a day… so there’s that.)
Right now, I’m in the middle of my annual participation in November’s NaNoWriMo. Since November 2nd, I’ve written 30,000 words out of a 50,000 word target. This is a writer’s competition–a challenge to pit my tendency to over-edit in first drafts against raw inspiration and creativity.
Over-editing in first drafts is the result of fear. It’s an unwillingness to commit to the entire plot, to put characters in jeopardy, to give all or lose all in love and hate and war, to race toward the exciting climax of the book. Much like the contestents in Dragula, I deeply believe in my writing, just as the contestents deeply believe in their drag. They create personas, constellations of characters, facets of being, visions, a “world” in which their drag selves are at play–suffering yet triumphant, always rising from the ashes. Damage breeds creation. Yet so often those hidden fears can mute or dim our full commitment, our performance of our art. Dragula challenges its people in just about every way imaginable. The Boulet Brothers’ constant admonishment is “do better, commit fully, show us who you are.” If you don’t, you “die” on the show.
Writing–world and character building–is my salvation, just as drag is theirs. Many of the Dragula contestents could feel right at home in the artsy, queer haven that is my imaginary “Hermitville Farm and Arts (and Magic) Collective”–and if not Hermitville, they’d enjoy “The Realm,” a place where there are at least twenty-nine genders among the Elves, and almost every Elf is capable of shapeshifting and summoning irresistable powers of glamour.
I am writing to create a home and a community for myself, even if that home is not manifest in the physical world and my book friends are all invisible. Drag performers participate in an already created, yet constantly mutating demi-culture of art, but acceptance is not necessarily ready-made. Still, I envy them.
The Boulet Brothers are not in the business of coaching writers, yet I am keeping them before me as inspiration. I imagine them telling me to not be lazy or play it safe, to expand the limits of my imagination, and to bring this into my writing (otherwise, Elimination Challenge!). And I love their witchiness (’cause, you know, I’m witchy and my books are all about the discovery of magic), and I love their mischief (’cause, you know, my divine S.O. is a Trickster), and I love their sex and gender fuckery (’cause, you know, I’m a sexologist–but there are compelling personal and creative reasons besides).
So in a moment I will leave this blog post and open up my first draft, and plunge into my daily word count challenge (about 2,100 words or so). I will light an imaginary candle (though I could light a real one–I have plenty) and summon my muses both inner and outer. And the magic of world and character building will contine. It’s my deepest joy.
Thank you, Boulet Brothers, for shining your dark so that others may begin to sparkle in chthonic depths, clawing their way into the limelight as fully realized creatures of art.
It’s blessed Samhain, as of this evening, and this pagan holiday runs right into my birthday until sundown Nov. 1st. I am feeling unusually cheery, in spite of postponing a birthday gathering with my friends and children, as the lights are on at last.
I can heat my house and the electric hot water heater is once again on the job. In just a few minutes, I’ll make good use of it. Last night my part of Lake County was “re-energized” (PG&E’s quaint phrase) at approximately 4:30 PM. My four and a half days without power were not as dangerous or as costly as many people here in Lake County, and yet I was made all too aware of the vulnerability of being a “crone alone” in a rural county, 15-20 miles away from medical help, with only a few two-lane highways to get us in and out of our lake valley. Plus, I have to throw out some food.
Meanwhile the Kincade Fire, which has destroyed 76,825 acres and 282 structures, is at 60% containment but a friend of mine in Middletown, close to the Sonoma County line, is still on evac notice, as are the people of Cobb Mountain. The location of this fire meant that highways 53, 29, 128, and 175 would be poor choices as evacuation routes for people living around the lake (should we need them), as these highways would have taken the unwary too close to–or into–the fire (which at times also closed portions of the major freeway 101, in both directions). And then the Burris Fire broke out along highway 20, the way I usually leave this county, closing half of it for several hours. That left only highway 20 east to south interstate 5 as a potential escape route for me and my seven cats. With fires breaking out all over the place (again) I was really living in some fear. As were we all here in Lake County. We’re officially a disaster zone, an impoverished county already just barely scraping by, scarred by fires and floods in the last few years.
No internet. No cellphone. Only a land-line and a battery operated radio kept me linked to the outwide world. (But some people’s AT&T landlines were going down and the community radio stations were running on generators, with limited programming). Though I usually spend my days in silence, I was hungry for news and kept the radio on all day long. Along with call-in complaints and local news–who was open, who did acts of kindness, who had their generator stolen, what stations had gas–there was an overall esprit de corps and generosity of spirit that makes my eyes teary even as I write.
And so last night, before the electricity came back, a few of us gathered in my home for a Samhain celebration and a “Dumb Supper” (a silent meal shared with our beloved dead). I spent the day preparing, moving furniture, and cooking (yes, I have a gas stove and could cook indoors–I was lucky!). The imperishables and the food about to perish in my warming freezer determined the human menu: a soup of frozen corn, canned milk, eggs, and onions; chorizo; polenta; and applesauce. The dead were offered foods colored black or white: squares of chocolate, feta cheese, olives, small chunks of canned pears. We drank a toast to them from empty cups. And we all remembered people we love who are no longer embodied.
Funny thing though, the lights came on just as we were about to eat our own meal and cast our circle. We’d been prepared to carry on by candlelight, but now we didn’t have to. And as our priestess was calling in the North, the land-line rang with what I later learned was PG&E’s redunant announcement that the power was now on. (Of course I didn’t answer it at the time.)
That was three power outages this month. A lot of food had to be tossed. I am just now taking stock of what I have to replace, at the end of the month when funds are low. Every single person in this county who isn’t lucky or wealthy enough to own a generator, is in this same predicament.
For me, this year’s liminal season–which encompasses the founding of Lokabrenna, Samhain, and my birthday (as well as the birthdays of cherished friends)–has taught me precariousness and the need for redundant systems (including those which are low tech). It has also taught me (once again) the value of friendship and community, seen and unseen.
Power of another sort informed our ritual last night. The dark and the liminal are allies we cultivate. Our ancestors and our dead are with us as we suffer and celebrate. The firefighters are blessed allies of another kind. Everyone who made a kind gesture this last week has my gratitude and my awe.
Blessed be. And Hail to Loki, my fultrui and future psychopomp.
Disclaimer: Of course the importance of Mauna Kea is “really” about so much more than this small slice of the issue. However, this tedious TMT PR trope of asking “can science and culture coexist on the mountain” is making me slightly insane. Here’s another angle–the way we should “really” be asking this question. But first, a public service announcement.
Today, October 5th, is the worldwide celebration of Aloha ʻĀina Unity Marches, with events taking place on most or all of the Hawaiian Islands and in other places besides. (Aloha ʻĀina means “love the land.”)
The controversy over the construction of a massive, ecologically destructive, 18-story building on stolen lands in a fragile “conservation district” zone–a district located on Mauna Kea, one of the most sacred mountains in the Pacific–is often presented as “Science” (white, western, mostly based on materialistic consumption) vs. “Culture” (native, oceanic, mostly based in spiritual traditions).
I am not anywhere near one of today’s marches. Instead, I will write. But in order to write about this particular aspect of the Mauna Kea struggle, I must acknowledge a mid-August phone conversation with Makana Cameron, musician and activist (hear his song, “See You on the Mauna,” featuring Lanakila). In that conversation, Makana spoke of the science community’s “weaponization of knowledge” and how the narrative of the TMT controversy was really about “Western Science dogma operating as Religion” vs. Native Science (which we understand to be informed by spiritual connection and a responsible understanding of how to get along with the natural world). I took a lot of notes during that convseration but unfortunately did not get verbatim quotes. E kala mai! (Sorry!) His eloquence exceeds my own and I hope I can do justice to the gist of the conversation while also adding further thoughts of my own.
I’ve been letting the conversation with Makana root and grow, not sure if I was the right person to address this topic, collaboratively or otherwise. Meanwhile, just the other day, members of the astronomy community who support construction of the 18-story Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), staged a pro-TMT panel discussion at the Hawai’i “state” capitol in Honolulu. Here’s the first sentence from the Oct. 4th Hawai’i News Now article: “Thirty Meter Telescope supporters gathered at the state Capitol Friday arguing that culture and science can coexist on Mauna Kea.”
Not that “coexistence” thing again! Frankly, my stomache churned, reading this. Fuggit, those folks are shameless. It’s past time for that question, and its underlying assumptions, to be flipped.
Let’s talk about what kind of culture and what kind of science would be most likely to productively and respectfully “co-exist” on the mountain.
And let’s be clear about two things:
(1) That mode of inquiry enshrined by the general term “science” is not a pure, unbiased endeavor. It never has been. It often serves the power elite at the expense of others. And science which originates from a (mostly white) western , intrinsically colonial mindset and which is privileged over the rights and wishes of native peoples IS NOT CULTURE-FREE! The pro-TMT camp is notoriously ignorant and/or duplicitous about the impact of Western Science Culture, what it embodies and represents. Since this ignorance is whopping Moore Foundation grants (if not exactly bliss), the pro-TMT camp grants itself “the right” to do whatever the heck it wants on the mountain, regardless of the wishes, beliefs, and legal rights of native Hawaiians. In fact, their insistent “manifest astronomical destiny” to build TMT takes precedence over all other concerns, almost bordering on dogmatic religious fervor. “To the stars!” they cry, aspiring to imagined scientific heroics without realizing that they are in fact the gullible representatives of an evil empire.
(2) Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiians) are not and have never been “science free.” As a brilliant people with exceptional resource management skills (e.g. the ahupua’a system), they developed sophisticated capacities for observation, inquiry, and practical applications in navigation, aquaculture, agriculture, botany, weather observation (just to name a few) and yes…even astronomy. I hesitate to name that last one because the pro-TMT camp has so often conflated its own star-gazing with that of the Hawaiians, as a justification for its own invasive and quite illegal claims on the mountain. This is a particularly noxious form of cultural appropriation.
As just one example of advanced observational abilities, I go to a book on my shelf, Hanau Ka Ua–Hawaiian Rain Names, by Collette Leimomi Akana with Kiele Gonzalez. There are hundreds of distinct names and descriptions of different rains, such as “Kiawe’ula… Rain that streams down gracefully with a faint streak of red, as of a rainbow” (p. 80) and the “Wa’ahila rain” which “brings life to the harbour of Kou” (p. 273). So the different rains are not just described, but in some cases their importance to ecosystems is also noted.
Or how about an example from literature, when the goddess Pele recites the names and describes all the winds of Kaua’i and Ni’ihau in a chant which takes up pages 13-25 of The Epic Tale of Hi’iakaikapoliopele, as told by Ho’oulumahiehie, translated by M. Puakea Nogelmeier?
Can you imagine San Francisco urbanites taking the time to closely watch the winds and rains that visit their city? Do they intimately observe the details, direction, and timing of the “Bus Interrupting Rain” or the “Branch Scattering Wind of Golden Gate Park?” Do we know their seasons, their times of arrival, how they may spur or inhibit the growth of plants or fisheries (not to mention their effect on mass transit)? The heart of science is observation. And practical use of such observations can bring plenty or hardship to a people. Kanaka Maoli (and other native peoples) were and are adept. They had to be.
I might also mention that what we might call “social sciences” are also key to survival. You can bet that native peoples have focused their finely tuned observational capacities on the people who colonize or occupy their lands, as a matter of survival. Without presuming to speak for the Mauna Kea protectors, I would venture to guess that many know the precise nature and character of their opponents far better than the opponents know themselves.
That said, let’s get back to the idea of a “culture” that could successfully and respectfully co-exist with the kind of science and common sense stewardship of natural resources that’s embedded in native Hawaiian traditions. What kind of culture does the TMT convey and represent?
Systemic racism and personal prejudice. Here is just one example, in a quote from a Hawai’i NPR story concerning an event which happened April, 2015:
“Professor Alexei Filippenko, of the University of California Berkeley, sent out a link to a petition in support of the TMT. It included a note from Professor Sandra Faber at UC Santa Cruz and it landed in the inboxes of all the astrophysics students and faculty.
Faber wrote in part of the email that “the Thirty-Meter Telescope is in trouble, attacked by a horde of native Hawaiians who are lying about the impact of the project on the mountain and who are threatening the safety of TMT personnel.”
I lived in the San Francisco East Bay at the time. As an ally, I attended the meeting at CAL Berkeley where astronomy students confronted faculty with their anger and concerns about this incident. That the meeting was “tense” is an understatement.
Here is an excellent commentary by Janet D. Stemwedel about the ethical challenges of the TMT and the (largely white) American scientific community as a whole.
Incidently, in July 2019, hundreds of astronomers and other scientists signed a petition supporting the protectors of Mauna Kea and opposing the construction of the TMT.
Predatory philanthropy. See Mauna Kea and the Moore Foundation’s Hypocrisy for a larger version of the funding charts below. The strategy of the Moore Foundation’s grants to TMT, University of Hawai’i, and the Nature Conservancy was and is designed to influence decision-making about Mauna Kea. All information taken from websites accessible to the public.
Corruption of public agencies and processes. See What Price Mauna Kea? for more details about the relationships between the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, University of Hawai’i, the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and Bureau of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) and the possible skewing of the approval process in favor of the TMT. All information taken from websites accessible to the public.
You might also want to look at an interesting paper trail included in an article by Dr. Leonard G. Horowitz and Sherri Kane: Gov. Ige TMT Bribery Scandal. Ige’s office denied the allegation. I don’t know if there is any follow-up investigation.
Entitlement and duplicity. Gosh. Where to start? From the beginning of the theft of the Hawaiian Kingdom to the present moment, representatives of the occupying power have felt entitled to “dole” out (pun intended) duplicity to the Kanaka Maoli as a matter of course. All telescope development on Mauna Kea since 1968 is the result of entitled land grabs and lies. Today, TMT public relations communications routinely spin falsehoods and half-truths.
Violence. In 2015, at least one Mauna Kea activist was nearly run over by a car heading up the access road toward the telescopes. Sacred structures have been vandalized for years. In July 2019, police arrested 38 peaceful protectors of the mountain, most of them elderly people. A community classroom at Pu’uhonua o Pu’uhuluhulu was recently destroyed by authorities, who also ripped through and desecrated a Hawaiian flag. The protectors gathered at Pu’u Huluhulu have been harrassed with parking tickets as well as threatened with potentially lethal force in future police actions. Here is a video of some of the Kia’i making a statement about police harrassment and misconduct.
Paul Neves, a longtime Mauna Kea activist who is a renowned kumu hula (hula teacher) and a member of the Royal Order of Kamehameha, reported a recent encounter with a gun-wielding man on a street near his home in Hilo. Kumu Neves has asked for his post to be shared widely so I have copied and pasted his post here.
Please share this with everyone…
On the morning of Saturday September 28th between 6:30 and 7:00 AM, beachside across the street from Seaside Restaurant in Keaukaha, my life was threatened while walking my dog. A gun was aimed methodically and purposefully right at me, within 8 feet of my face. At that very moment, I thought I would be shot and killed. I remember his face, the barrel of the gun and his dead eyes. I will never forget.
Those of you who know me, know that I have been outspoken on political, cultural and spiritual issues all my life, and especially in Hawai’i. You also know that I am not afraid to die for what I believe in and that I will not be threatened or intimidated. I will continue to follow the call of Ke Akua and that is my refuge, purpose and mission in life.
The shooter left after my yelling and screaming back at him. After a long five seconds his car fled the scene. The police were timely and I am following up with them. I have shared this terrible incident with my ohana and close friends. I also am seeking professional help to deal with it.
I share it with you because it is healing for me and to make you aware of a danger that does exists in our community. I am asking you to pray (PULE) for me and other innocent people who have been traumatized or threatened in their lives.
Never leave your home or loved ones without saying to them, “I Love You”. I have learned that valuable lesson! I got this my friends.
God bless you…See You On The Mauna… Kumu Paul Neves
Cultural assumptions about Hawai’i and Hawaiians. From the above mentioned “angry hordes” of Sandy Farber’s imagination to the frequent characterization of Kanaka Maoli as somehow less rational and more superstitious (given their devotion to their own culture and the sacredness of their mountain), negative and insulting assumptions (often racialized) inform TMT-related policies and actions of duplicity and entitlement. To discredit Mauna Kea’s protectors, Governor Ige and other authority figures have portrayed the sacred “place of refuge” at Pu’uhuluhulu as unsafe, unsanitary, violent, drug-ridden, criminal, etc. However, there is no evidence of this at and far more evidence of a well-run, loving, safe community established to prevent desecration of Mauna Kea. Pu’uhuluhulu is informed by the principal of Kapu Aloha–a nonviolent and spirit-filled commitment to stand in dignity and peace, as appropriate to the cause and the sacredness of the place.
Superstition. By assuming (1) the mantle of a privileged intellectual elite (which must never be challenged) and (2) the values of short-sighted, profit-driven rampant consumerism (capitalism), Western Science Culture has helped to create an almost superstitious mindset among the general public. This is a mindset that looks to the Great Gods of Science to provide tech fixes to our most dire, life destroying predicaments: those of climate catastrophe, ubiquitous pollution, and rapid species extinction, a domino effect of almost total Earth ecosystem collapse. No matter that most of these predicaments are the result of science in the service of industry–creating nuclear bombs, toxic petrochemicals, plastic microbeads that fill the bellies of ocean animals, ad infinitum. Why we should expect the same mindset that created these problems to also provide solutions is beyond me. It seems to be a superstition of the most tragic and pernicious kind.
Therefore, when I “compare and contrast” the features of the TMT’s Imperial Western Science culture–and its lack of ethics and penchant for all manner of poor behavior–I do not believe that the TMT’s culture is at all compatible with the rational science and spiritual stewardship demonstrated by the Mauna Kea Kia’i, who are protecting a precious cultural and natural resource in a world imperiled by the same kind of entitlement and reckless disregard of natural balance and human rights that are at the heart of the efforts to build the TMT.
I conclude that the TMT and its proponents should not have any say at all in what happens on Mauna Kea.
Finally, here is a cogent statement from one of the leaders in the fight to preserve Mauna Kea, Kealoha Pisciotta’s discussion of a Mauna Kea “management plan” produced by the Kanaka Maoli lahui (community) some time ago. This sixteen-minute video is well worth watching, especially if you’ve been confused by this issue.
Ku Kia’i Mauna!
Hey everyone! Thanks for everything you’re already doing AND here’s something else to put on your agenda! It’s the petrochemical “elephant in the room.” You need to know this. You’ll thank me–I promise.
I am hoping you will share information about the following two studies and findings with other climate change activists as well as policy-makers.
Almost 40% of Urban Air Pollution Caused by Personal Care Products and Other Volatile Chemical Products (VCPs)
Though the focus of 350.org and other organizations has to do with fuel and energy, an overlooked component of air pollution and climate change involves the production and use of Volatile Chemical Products (VCPs). It turns out that VCPs, including personal care products, comprise 4% of the mass but have 38% of the impact on urban air quality–almost equal to gasoline and diesel emissions! NOAA and air quality researchers at UC Davis. PDF of the study here:
The study was a collaboration of NOAA and air quality researchers at UC Davis: Volatile chemical products emerging as largest petrochemical source of urban organic emissions, published in Science, Feb. 2018. (See PDF of study here.) Here is the first paragraph:
[“A gap in emission inventories of urban volatile organic compound (VOC) sources, which contribute to regional ozone and aerosol burdens, has increased as transportation emissions in the United States and Europe have declined rapidly. A detailed mass balance demonstrates that the use of volatile chemical products (VCPs)—including pesticides, coatings, printing inks, adhesives, cleaning agents, and personal care products—now constitutes half of fossil fuel VOC emissions in industrialized cities. The high fraction of VCP emissions is consistent with observed urban outdoor and indoor air measurements. We show that human exposure to carbonaceous aerosols of fossil origin is transitioning away from transportation-related sources and toward VCPs. Existing U.S. regulations on VCPs emphasize mitigating ozone and air toxics, but they currently exempt many chemicals that lead to secondary organic aerosols.”]
So, with this kind of impact on outdoor air in cities, what do you think the impact of such products may be in buildings and indoor events? And in public transportation, which we are all asked to use in order to cut down on fossil fuel use? What happens when proposed solutions like public transportation ignore a substantial population of people who cannot access them?
A substantial population? Really?
Yes, actually. Another 2018 study, National Prevalence and Effects of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities by Anne Steinemann, PhD (Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, March 2018) estimates that one in four Americans now has some form of environmentally caused illness. Here is where you can find a PDF of her study.
So… if we connect the dots…our current rates of asthma and other respiratory ailments, plus environmental illnesses, are caused and exacerbated by VCPs as well as VOCs (petrochemicals all). And part of our climate catastrophe could be mitigated substantially by including public awareness of the huge impact of VCPs on climate and health (remember, this 4% mass of VCPs causes 38% of the effects on urban air quality–and presumably also a correspondingly large impact on human health). Such products must be boycotted wherever possible, and their use in public spaces, health care settings, workplaces, schools, and transportation should be regulated and/or prohibited, much like the use of tobacco smoke. Also, less toxic and non-toxic products already exist and should be promoted as alternatives.
Climate Justice is Intersectional
Recognition of the enormous but unacknowledged impact of VCPs can lead climate activists and others to a fruitful intersection of public health concerns, disability accommodation, changes in consumer buying habits, and rather substantial decrease in degraded air quality (both outdoor and indoor).
Why not listen, finally, to those of us–people with environmental illnesses–who have been “Canaries in the Coal Mine” for so many years? (I’ve been calling us “Cassandras in the Coal Mine” since no one listens to us…) We have deep, hard-won knowledge of the impacts of chemicals on human and environmental health. And now the NOAA/UC Davis study shows how what’s been hurting us is also an enormous factor in air pollution and climate change.
So why not welcome us into your activist meetings and spaces (by making them “fragrance-free” for a start) and why not include the above scientifically significant findings in your strategies and platforms? (350.org, Drawdown, are you listening?)
Let us help you create the education and messages necessary for public understanding and action on this point, thus adding substantially to the array of solutions to our current predicament. Seek out people involved with environmental health organizations and Facebook groups of people with chemical sensitivities.
Partner with the Canaries. Our “songs” are more helpful than you know. Here is the one I’m “singing” now…
Dear Readers, Here are important recent statements from Kia’i (Protectors) of Mauna Kea.
• Sept. 18th statement from representatives of Pu’uhonua o Pu’uhuluhulu regarding police “counter intelligence” efforts to undermine Kia’i.
• Professor Kaleikoa Ka’eo testimony to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), Sept. 19, 2019.
• Kaho’okahi Kanuha testimony to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), Sept. 19, 2019.
• Edward Halealoha Ayau testimony on the actual ownership of Mauna Kea access road (hint: it’s not Dept. of Transportation).
More to come.
Today’s Global Climate Strike and the ongoing Aloha ‘Aina (“love of the land”) movement to protect Sacred Mauna Kea in Hawai’i are both part of the larger upswelling of urgency to save our planet and its natural places and living creatures from the impacts of human-caused climate catastrophe and rapacious human greed.
I’ll be participating in a strike action later today. I’ve opted to not drive 300 miles round trip to San Francisco’s demonstration because I’d use a lot of fossil fuel getting there, so I’ll participate in a smaller action closer to home.
Leaving David Bowie’s Five Years right here…