HILO, Hawaii – One of the most vocal Native Hawaiian supporters of the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope project took the witness stand on Tuesday.
Richard Ha is a member of PUEO, or Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities. The group was formed to provide an alternate Hawaiian perspective on the TMT project; one that supports siting the $1.5 billion observatory on Mauna Kea.
Ha is a well known Hawaii Island farmer, having recently transitioned from banana to medical marijuana, and he has been supportive of TMT from early on.
Our group Perpetuating Unigue Educational Opportunities (PUEO) is made up of highly respected members of the Hawaiian community. We represent folks who believe our children are as competent as any in the world. We are about keiki educafion.
We are also about making sure our culture is not left behind as we move into the future. We can multi-task.
The Big island has the lowest median family income, the highest rate of homelessness and the highest suicide rate. PUEO recognizes that education is the great equalizer. We believe through education, taking advantage of the resources around us and integrating our culture into what we learn, we can not only do better, we can lead the world.
PUEO stepped up when we learned that Hoku Kea, the small University of Hawai‘i at Hilo teaching telescope, would go from Maunakea, the best viewing site in the world, down into Hilo, the rainiest city in the world. Why?
We also felt we needed to support astronomy in general and the Thirty Meter TeleSCOpe (TMT) in particular. That is why PUEO entered the contested case hearing supporting the TMT, which has a track record of doing the right thing. The president of TMT, Henry Yang, is a humble man of the people, someone you can do business with on a handshake.
Our people came from the south. Though they had not seen the northern skies, they used their knowledge of the stars and launched their canoes. Today, on Maunakea, we are in these northern skies wanting to combine our knowledge with those in the southern skies for the good of humanity.
Fighting against astronomy, banning astronomy from Maunakea, is as short-sighted as burning the oars of the canoe Hokule‘a because we need firewood. The TMT is made up of the Pacific Rim nations of Canada, the U.S., Japan, India and China. What better purpose can we aspire to than cooperation among nations, rather than war? And what better place for cooperation than on Maunakea, in Hawai‘i, the land of aloha?
PUEO is made up of highly respected native Hawaiian elders and is led by a proven leader, our president Keahi Warfield. Other members are Patrick Kahawaiola‘a, president of the Keaukaha Community Association; Bill Brown, president of the Panaewa Community Association; Mapuana Waipa, and myself.
But it is not about us, the elders, it’s about the youngsters. What kind of world will we leave them?
It’s about attitude. Will we, like the Hokule‘a, leave a legacy of, “Not, no can. CAN!”? Will we listen to the thousand reasons why No can, or will we find the one reason why CAN?
Will we lean forward toward discovery? Can our people be the leaders in the world?
PUEO is bringing students to tour the various telescopes. PUEO is also working to make the voyaging canoe Hokualaka‘i seaworthy. We are reaching for an earth-sky connection.
When the new UH telescope is functional, PUEO will have students operating it from Hilo. On September 24th, PUEO will gather at Palekai in Keaukaha, Big Island. The University’s Department of Astronomy will set up booths so the young ones can see what is offered.
We can do this. President Obama, leader of the most powerful nation on earth, is from Hawai‘i. Professor Jennifer Doudna, who discovered the game-changing CRISPr gene editing technology, is a Hilo High graduate. Dennis Gonsalves, father of the GMO Rainbow Papaya, is from Kohala. The Hokule‘a is from Hawai‘i.
It’s attitude. Will we choose to be victims or will we choose to be pioneers?