The Hollywood superstar Dwayne ''The Rock'' Johnson arrived in Hawaii Wednesday to support the native Hawaiians in their efforts to stop the building of a $1.4 billion telescope project at the top of volcano Mauna Kea.
The actor and former semi-professional wrestler is no stranger to the island. Although he is Samoan, he spent most of his childhood in Hawaii where he attended high school. In addition to that, in an upcoming movie for his production house, Johnson would portray King Kamehameha the Great, the historical leader who unified the Hawaiian Islands in the 1800s.
Upon arrival, Johnson exchanged traditional nose-to-nose greetings called honi with protesters. He assured them they had his full support. Later on, he met the elderly leaders to discuss the issue.
Speaking with the journalists, Johnson said that what he saw here was much bigger than a telescope. It was an act of humanity, asserted he, highlighting that the Polynesian people were willing to die to protect their ancient homeland.
Since mid-July, Hawaii has made it to the news mainly with the ongoing protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project planned for the base of the dormant volcano Mauna Kea.
The protests have been ongoing since July 15, when the construction works were supposed to start. Protesters blocked the road to the mountain and chained themselves to a gate at the construction site.
The summit offers one of the world's best conditions for astronomy. It already hosts 13 telescopes. The regulatory approval of the TMT was pending for years before getting final approval. It would bring hundreds of jobs for the locals and would boost both the economy and science.
On the other hand, Mauna Kea is considered a sacred place by the native Hawaiians. The mountain is home to numerous cultural resources, historical and burial sites as well as fragile natural resources.
As Kealoha Pisciotta, one of the most active protesters against the building of TMT, the mountain is like a temple for the native people, representing the connection between the creation and the creator.
According to Roy Gal, an associate astronomer at the University of Hawaii, the TMT would allow the scientists to measure the atmospheres of the Earth-size planets for the first time in history. Furthermore, the astronomers would be able to find out whether there is water on those planets.
Led by the University of California, the TMT project is funded by the former co-founders of Intel, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
What is your opinion? Do you support or oppose the native Hawaiians in their attempts to stop the building of the 18-story telescope on their sacred land?