TMT -Thirty Meter Telescope


This is a letter of humble activism.  I send my love to those warriors on the mauna, around the mauna, and miles from the mauna, yesterday, today, and in the days ahead.  Even if the organization throws this away when they receive it in the mail, I will know that my thoughts are shared in other ways. E ola nā wahi pana!

To whom it may concern,

I deeply appreciate your attention to this letter, and the favorable consideration that was taken for it to be here in your hands at this moment.  Thank you very much.

Aloha nō, from the land known as paradise to many, including myself, a tropical haven for flora and fauna of all sorts and sizes, a seafarerʻs destination, a house to one of the wettest places on Earth, a living mass with snow on its highest point and spilling lava just miles away, an ancestral lineage, a small place, home to people with big hearts.

My name is Amber Au.  I was born in Mānana, raised in Moanalua and Nuʻuanu, and now reside in Papakōlea, on the island of Oʻahu.  I am a granddaughter, daughter, sister, cousin, friend, coach, student, and of all these identities the most important to me is the last.  Being a student has brought me to the completion of my junior year in college at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, focusing in Tropical Plant and Soil Science with Hawaiian Language.  While pondering on earning my BS very soon, I have been thinking about these years of being a student.

You and I may agree that being a student simply means being a learner.  In this case, we have truly been learning for much longer than since our initial enrollment in a Western institution, and have been students all our lives.  I am certain that you, a nonprofit organization working in the field of celestial science and exploration, both feel and understand this humble position as a learner, as a student. I need to say ʻfeelʻ because the precious night sky is just that; the wonders of the universe around us undoubtedly draws emotion, and it takes a mere glance upward on a starry night to do so.  Furthermore, learning about these things that emotionally draw us toward itself, expounds our passion to continue to learn.

Having said all this, I would like to say that as a fellow student and fellow learner, I completely understand your desire to continue your studying.  However, I would like to express possibly a new perspective of learning, from the past.

On a chilly December night when I look up and, amidst the light pollution from chaotic Honolulu, can see the rising formation of Ke Kā o Makaliʻi in the east, I need no instrument to satisfy my awe or to know that those stars are in fact there.  To see it any clearer, bigger, or brighter, would confirm my ancestral connection to it no more than my eyes alone already have.  You may now realize where this letter is beginning to go, but I ask you to please read on…

When ancient Hawaiians lived here in Hawaiki (Hawaiʻi), the coastal-dwelling people knew that there were at least two sorts of fish: carnivorous and herbivorous.  Of course, they did not know the Western terms for either, but what did it matter? English, Latin, and Greek, were nonexistent to them; they were masters of their own language, methodology, and culture. Their society innately had its own standards of intellect.  This is not to say that we were ignorant, no, in fact our monarchs traveled thousands of miles over seas to network with people around the world.  But, if learning is traditionally by observation, no matter the area of study, who are we to belittle those of indigenous people? Whose standards do we conform to? How do we allow one to overbear the other if all knowledge is valid and sacred to the individual? And when is it appropriate to dismiss that of the native people in their native land?

Here is an observation that no telescope can capture: There is something that my generation and those arising, are missing.  We allow ourselves to be students of our schools but have lost the humility to be students of our environment.  We learn in order to achieve paper awards, to give us an edge for a job, to make as much money as possible.  We are obsessed with American freedom which induces us to rather not associate ourselves with any form of religion, so we are unaware of the spirituality that should come with our learning.  We no longer know the stories of our great-grandparents, and therefore do not know parts of ourselves that we will spend a lifetime searching for.  We look into the night sky and see the celestial beings, but do not feel them.  If your 18-story telescope is certainly in the name of learning, I humbly ask you to think thoroughly about the education that our youth truly need…

The learners who have stopped your ceremony atop Mauna a Wākea, blockaded your construction team from executing your blueprint plans, created artwork in honor of the mountain, come together to stand for the protection of sacred land and aloha ʻāina, and continue to sing songs to ease our pain for the desecration of our ancestors, are indeed my brothers and sisters.  And I would like to affirm any thoughts of us crazy-radical-Hawaiians; we are mixed-ethnicities and cultures, and if this is what an active community looks like, then we are proudly both crazy and radical, just as you are for the galaxies. I cannot let another ʻeducational toolʻ be built upon that majestic mountain…not when what is to be learned, cannot be achieved by it.  Your mission is beautiful, but your methodology is not.  I firmly believe that there is an alternative way to seek out what you are searching for, and I am very willing to help in that troubleshooting if such an opportunity is given.

Mahalo piha for your time. Please feel free to contact me at your leisure.

“If I have courage, it is because I have faith in the teachings of my ancestors.” -Mau Piailug


Amber M.L.W. Au