Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

December 20, 2014

'Why the Mountain' documentary film for Mauna Kea

Friday, December 19, 2014

"Why The Mountain" is a documentary film for Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea is inundated with 13 telescopes. The Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT) will dwarf what's already on the summit.

Our goal is to produce a beautiful, powerful and evocative film to help people everywhere understand why Mauna Kea is sacred to Hawaiians, a fragile ecosystem that needs protection, and is portrayed as indispensable to the astronomy industry. Construction of the TMT is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2015, so we have very little time to intervene. 


Mauna Kea is majestic. Environmentally, it’s one of the most extraordinary places on earth. Located on Hawai'i Island in the middle of the Pacific, with an above sea elevation of 13,800 feet, when measured from its base beneath the ocean it’s more than 33,000 feet high. It is the tallest mountain in the world. It’s also a target for a form of exploitation that threatens the island’s ecosystem and the cultural, spiritual and religious survival of the Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians).

“Why The Mountain” will be a 30-minute documentary film that explores why Hawaiians and environmentalists oppose the Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT), and why the astronomy industry is determined to construct this 18 ½ - story building on Mauna Kea.

Touted as the largest and most powerful telescope in the world, to astronomers, the TMT represents the dawn of a new era. Gordon Moore, founder of INTEL and one of TMT’s major funders, says it will offer “…the potential to transform the study of the universe.” 

Environmentalists argue that because the largest fresh water aquifer for Hawai'i Island is on Mauna Kea, the potential for irreversible harm is too high a price to pay. They say to build a football stadium size structure and its accompanying 5,000-gallon container for hazardous chemical waste, is an unnecessary risk. And given the toxic chemicals in use by the 13 telescopes already on the summit, the TMT increases the threat to the watershed and endangered and threatened species’ habitats. 

But for Hawaiians, what began as an agreement to allow one telescope on Mauna Kea over 40 years ago has turned into a generational struggle to protect the mountain from further harm and desecration. Traditionally, the Hawaiian people have regarded the summit as sacred. Now it’s also a symbol of cultural erasure and the ongoing assault on Hawaiian spiritual and religious practices, and rights to self-determination.


The TMT project is backed by the financial power of INTEL, the University of California system, California Institute of Technology, and the astronomy industries of China, India, Japan and Canada. They have millions of dollars for public relations and to spin their story in the media. 

Through our film we can reach out together to educate people around the world-- via the internet, public access stations, social media platforms, and community events, and stop the TMT. 

Help “Why The Mountain” carry the message of Mauna Kea to the world.
We need your kokua (support) to make a film that expresses our collective kuleana as Hawaiians and non-Hawaiian allies in our cause for cultural, spiritual and physical survival in our homeland.

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