Amidst several years of controversy and contention, the summit of Mauna Kea has indeed stood alone in the calm. Now as a community we must stand together and begin the difficult task of developing a harmonious and balanced stewardship of our use of Mauna Kea. To do that successfully, all of us are forced to turn towards the mountain for guidance. Mauna Kea is a majestic place of stark and surreal beauty. It is a place of conflict and hardship, a place of vulnerability and survival. All of us who have a connection, a passion, and a deep respect for the mountain have much to learn from her. Mauna Kea has the power to teach and reveal the best path we must take to her summit. The essence of this lesson is held in the nature of the land.
Guided by the master plan and the regent’s resolution, the Mauna Kea Management Board created several committees to help develop policies and programs related to the management of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve. Heather Cole and I asked to lead the Environment Committee. As we began to develop a working list of resource specialists to be on the committee, we tried to list all of the elements that make up Mauna Kea’s environment. For me, pondering the mountain’s many attributes and features was both a humbling and awe-inspiring exercise.
I have been enraptured by the natural world since I was a young child. It is our island’s beauty, complexities, and diversity, which led me to make my home here. For me the summit area of Mauna Kea is the pinnacle of Hawaii’s remarkable creative processes. Here is a landscape of rock sculpted by both volcanic fire and glacial ice. In a dry land of porous lava and cinders, lies one of the world’s highest lakes. Permafrost hides down deep, surrounded by a tropical world below. Unique plants and animals evolved to live amidst arctic temperatures at the top of the world’s tallest volcano. The landscape is imprinted with the human history of those who ventured centuries ago into the thin air for ritual and industry. Today we are faced with the challenge of balancing the rights of ritual and the wants of industry
We are learning about the inhabitants of an environment that many consider sacred. The wonder of a weiku bug that doesn’t freeze is matched with the wobbly hint of a planet orbiting a distant star. The tumbled and ground glacier moraine that was once flowing lava is matched with an upright shrine that guides the voices of generations. Mauna Kea has demanded our attention and asks for our respect. As we proceed with the hard work that many people together have started, we need only look to Mauna Kea for the right path.