Wednesday, February 02, 2011

A wind farm and the 'sacredness' of wind


From time to time I try to bring issues of science and religion interactions that are not related some of the big world religions nor are they about issue of origins and scientific explanations. I find issues of science and native (American and Hawaiian) religions quite complex and often deeply tied to cultural identities (see earlier posts related to science and native religions here).

So here comes a news story about a wind farm in Hawaii. Now Hawaii would be an excellent place - being in the middle of the Pacific, there is no shortage of wind. But there is some opposition to it:

But, similar to the Cape Wind project in Massachusetts, not everyone here is welcoming the windmills.
Protesters gathered at a recent informal legislative meeting at the state capital.
Robin Kaye, with a group called Friends of Lanai, stood next to a scale model of the island. He pointed to the hundreds of miniature windmills that cover an area called Garden of the Gods.
"So you tell me, if that was in your backyard whether you'd object or not," Kaye said. "NIMBY is relative." Kaye and others are unwavering in their opposition, despite an effort to assemble a generous public benefits package — including a share of the wind farm's profits, not unlike the oil payments Alaskans get.
Walter Rittie, a longtime activist on Molokai, says that for native Hawaiians like himself, the wind is a revered god. "So until the state realizes what they're dealing with, that it's not a commodity, it's a cultural resource that Hawaiians have high regard for, part of our heritage, then we're in for a train wreck here," Rittie says.
So couple of things. The controversy over Cape Wind project was about land and about rituals (see this earlier post: A Wind Farm vs Sacred Rituals). The issue of aesthetics plays a big role in nature religions, and that again seems to be an issue at Hawaii. But unlike the Cape Wind dispute, the Hawaiian protest seems to be more about cultural recognition than actual rituals. Due to particular historical/political quirks, Native Hawaiians have less religious/cultural rights than even the Native Americans. Therefore, high profile projects such as these stir up debates about cultural recognition. I don't think the project will be stopped, but I think it will be a constructive  step to recognize the importance of wind in the religio-cultural tradition of native Hawaiians.

Related posts:
Dispute over native-American remains
Mauna Kea Observatories Update
Is it good news that Maui is picked as the site for a new Solar telescope?
Blood samples back to Yanomamo
Havasupai Tribe and the Ethics of DNA Research
A wind farm versus sacred ritiuals
Skeletal remains and the issue of cultural affiliation

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