Mauna Kea Opponents Exemplify Leadership In Diverse Ways

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The following editorial was originally published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday, August 4, 2019 as part of the "Raise Your Hand" column in the Insights section.

By: Sophia Starr, Pahoa High School, Class of 2021

The battle for Mauna Kea has been fueled by passion and forward thinking. From the perspective of a millennial, I have never been so active in a movement that instantly grabbed my attention and had such gravity. Mauna Kea has brought diverse individuals together: astronomers, local community members, cultural practitioners, government officials, and celebrities to advocate for the future of the summit. Local kia‘i have been persistent with their message. The grassroots efforts of TMT opponents, the ability to look past challenges and have the perseverance to continue, is leadership in its natural form. The people spreading aloha, supplying resources, and providing safety atop the mountain have built an empire of teamwork and effective communication. 

The leadership exhibited by kia‘i on the mauna in this issue is unlike anything I have ever witnessed. I think there is much to learn from them. Their efforts can clearly be categorized into James Kouzes and Barry Posner’s Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership, consisting of: model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act, and encourage the heart. Enabling others to act and encouraging the heart in particular have been at the very core of this whole ordeal. Activists have strived to create an atmosphere of hope and respect for human dignity and have taken to social media to spread their message. Many young students have been very engaged with the subject since protests started. More and more of my peers, especially those who are not able to be atop the summit, have begun broadcasting their opinions on social media, a feat that I haven’t seen with other political issues. To me, it seems like everyone has an opinion on TMT. The youth have even started a small trend to change their profile picture to represent the kanaka maoli standing with the mauna and the people who are dedicated to the cause. 

Additionally, the rampant use of social media has led to rallies proliferating across our islands, nationwide, and around the globe. The physical presence of protests, like those in Alaska and Nevada, which are thousands of miles away, is empirical proof that this movement has the traction and power to reach beyond our geographic location. These people, though far removed from the summit, resonated with the message of the movement so much that they felt inspired to act. Mauna Kea is not just a Hawaii or Native Hawaiian issue but is a human rights and social issue. 

Regardless of whatever you believe about TMT, there should be nothing but praise for the fearless and coordinated efforts of those on Mauna Kea. The establishing of Pu'uhuluhulu University and sharing of food, water, and shelter, plus the genuine ethic of care has shown how a movement can lead to the formation of a community. They have transformed the summit to a display of aloha and solidarity. These individuals are not just waving signs or occupying a space. They are engaged with the sharing of their knowledge and practices. The kupuna were unafraid of being arrested, an ultimate display of their unwavering belief in the face of adversity. 

There is much to learn from a group of people who have caused a local issue to garner the international spotlight. These driven individuals have projected leadership in a unique way for the younger generations. The younger generations will hear about how a community of Hawai‘i were fearless in taking action and responsibility about our future to a whole new extent. Although it is uncertain what the outcome of the summit will be, it will surely be revolutionary if not groundbreaking.