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.

Please, Don’t Choose Ignorance

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The following editorial was originally published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday, July 7, 2019 as part of the "Raise Your Hand" column in the Insights section.

By: Lyrah Panarigan, Moanalua High School, Class of 2020

I remember seeing a poster in my pediatrician's office that read, “Vaccines hurt, but not as much as these diseases do.” What followed directly below was a horrifying collage of viruses. The images, now ingrained in my mind, kept me glued to my chair to take a 2-second pinch, ultimately reducing and preventing possible diseases. With the rise of the anti-vaccination movement and the skepticism surrounding vaccinations, it is important to not be ignorant. 

“Ignorance is strength” was the mandate screamed in the world of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. In 1984 and 2019, people choose to be blind to the truth and suffer the consequences because of lies. Orwell’s wake-up call applies to us in 2019, and being ignorant caused us more weakness than strength. 

HIV, AIDS, SARS, Zika, Ebola and now measles. Time and time again we encountered such outbreaks, and time and time again our society could have ended these epidemics. The anti-vaccination movement is the result of ignoring the problem, and we can only blame ourselves for the new outbreaks.

The federal government only took notice of the widespread dilemma the moment it emerged as a threat to the population. They demanded vaccinations but hesitated  due to religious and false reasonings, such as the prospect of autism noted by anti-vaccination activist and gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield. Although the government encourages vaccinations, there is no set protocol in addressing those who are against taking them. 

To the U.S government, please, do not be ignorant. Prioritize our health because saving a life is crucial. Encourage people to protect themselves in order to protect others. Raise awareness about these diseases, how to prevent them, and how ‘herd immunity’ works: as more people get immunized, the more unlikely it will be for diseases to spread and outbreaks to occur. As for those who cannot receive vaccines due to medical issues, encourage them to check with their physicians on a regular basis for possible diseases or infections. Focus on fixing what can be fixed and what will benefit our people rather than harm them. This government was created by the people, for the people, and taking smaller resolutions brings us closer to solving the big issue and saving millions of lives. 

Parents, please, do not be ignorant. Currently, some parents are refusing vaccinations in wake of the growing spread of measles domestically. It is admirable to be a parent and to stand up for what they believe is right for their child. However, a parent actively harms their child by turning them away from the needle. This time, it will not be the child that cries from the pinch, but it will be the parent that cries from regret. 

In April of this year, the Center of Disease Control reported 704 documented cases of measles in the United States, the highest number of reported cases since the record breaking 963 during 1994. Of those 704 cases, 71% were identified to be unvaccinated individuals. Parents cannot let their child be part of this statistic. Every child deserves to live a long, healthy life. Regardless of religion, you are a member of a larger society. My parents have taught me to think about others, and it is in the best efforts of wanting our society to be immunized.

The world is connected in more ways today compared to the decades in the past. As advances in almost every industry rise, the awareness for many other issues rise as well. In raising efforts in one thing, it is affected by another. Social media was powerful enough to raise awareness about diseases, yet it was also powerful to instigate false claims made about vaccines. All these issues, fake news, and controversies result in overwhelming feelings for everyone. Ignorance should not be one.