WATCH: The 50-Year History of Mismanagement at Hawai’i’s Mauna Kea

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Jul 19, 2019

Protests at Mauna Kea—like this week’s standoff, where Native Hawaiian elders were arrested for protesting construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT)—have been happening since 1968, according to the short documentary “Fifty Years of Mismanaging Mauna Kea.” Produced by advocacy group Kanaeokana, the six-minute film presents a timeline going back to 1964, when the Mauna Kea first caught the attention of the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) as an “exceptional site for astronomical observation” and the state designated the mountain a “conservation district” via the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The film shows that the mistreatment of the sacred mountain was swift and vast: More than 13,000 acres of land was leased to UH; multiple observatories were built on Mauna Kea over the span of two decades, many without permits; in 1995, a helicopter had to airlift $20,000 worth of trash from the summit that UH and it’s observatories had accumulated; and by 2004, subpoenaed documents revealed ethylene glycol, diesel fuel, toxic mercury and sewage leaching into the land. The issue, this film makes clear, is the long-term mishandling of the mountain and the fact that no organization has been held accountable for this stripping of Hawaiʻi’s natural resources. Watch below.