Scientific American's troubling article on Mauna Kea

Posted by Lauren Muneoka at Feb 28, 2015 11:10 PM |
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National coverage is good, but the article was not particularly critical of patronizing attitudes towards Native Hawaiians.

Check out this article in the Scientific American about Mauna Kea. National coverage is good, but the article was not particularly critical of troubling patronizing attitudes towards Native Hawaiians.

"They [the astronomy community] were accustomed to considering themselves the underdogs, continually embattled for funding and support. The astronomy community initially dismissed indigenous claims as spurious, antiquated and antiscience, a perspective that is still prevalent. In a column in The New York Times last October science writer George Johnson likened Hawaiian’s opposition to the telescope to the Catholic Church’s oppression of Galileo, and suggested that the indigenous protesters were pawns of environmentalists who “have learned that a few traditionally dressed natives calling for the return of sacred lands can draw more attention than arguments over endangered species and fragile ecosystems."

Check out our response to Johnson's NY Times Op-Ed referenced above here:

To be uncritical of the fact that indigenous people's worldviews continue to be dismissed by the science community is to say that our worldview--that we, ourselves--are dismissable. To go on to substantiate that perspective, by providing a quote that kanaka maoli are being used by environmentalists for their own agenda is false and insulting to both groups. If you would like to see this sentiment in real live action, go ahead and check out the comments section on the original article (or don't and save yourself the blood pressure spike).

This article reinforces a problematic false trichotomy between Hawaiians, environmentalists and scientists. Hawaiians are environmentalists and we are scientists. We appreciate the coverage, but could do without the condescension. I don't want to go after the article's author, Katie Worth, inasmuch as I believe she was attempting to stay objective and impartial in her writing, but as Desmond Tutu famously said, "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

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