Providing the backdrop for many a postcard or vacation photo, Mauna Kea is the highest mountain of the Hawaiian Islands, rising nearly 14,000 feet above sea level.
“It’s very sacred to a lot of Hawaiians,” explained Kolten Wong, who grew up in nearby Hilo. “People go up there all the time.”
The translation of Mauna Kea is “white mountain”.
“It’s one of the main mountains in Hawaii that actually snows,” said Wong. “It’s definitely something cool to see. You can drive up, people go up there and we hang out in the snow and play around.”
“Whenever I go back home, I always make a trip back up there just to hang out.”
But now the natural beauty of Mauna Kea is in jeopardy as the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) Project has been approved, which will put one of the largest telescopes in the world on the mountain.
“They’re trying to build like an 18-story telescope on top of the mountain, which basically, the end result is they will have to desecrate the mountain to put that thing on top,” explained Wong. “So what we’re doing is we’re trying to spread awareness of the fact that this is going down in Hawaii on a sacred mountain that we cherish. It’s special not just to us, but to everyone else in the world. It’s something that everyone comes to Hawaii to see and for them to do that there, it’s tough for us to swallow.”
Many Hawaiians and others sympathetic to the cause are protesting against and even helped delay construction for the TMT construction, which was approved by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources in 2013.
Wong has had “We Are Mauna Kea” engraved on his bats to show his support and help gain more attention to the matter.
“It’s a little thing I can do just to show my support for what these guys are doing and hopefully, we can stop this,” he said.
“Everyone in Hawaii’s proud of the fact that we have such a beautiful mountain, it’s so special to all of us. You look online, there’s so many people out there–I saw even Madison Bumgarner had one of him, it’s special to everybody to try and keep that as sacred as it is.”
As the debate and protests over the TMT on Mauna Kea continue, Hawaiian Governor David Ige temporarily halted construction on the project.
Mauna Kea photo credit: Damon Tucker