Colonial pasts and futures atop Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. IGU QC 2018.

2018 Sammler, K. Colonial Pasts and Futures atop Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea.International Geographical Union Regional Conference, Quebec City, Canada 6–10 Aug.

TITLE:  Colonial pasts and futures atop Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea

AUTHOR: Katherine Sammler, California State University Maritime Academy

ABSTRACT: Islands have long held the imaginations of continental populations as small, isolated, paradises. Colonialists and scientists alike have considered islands as blank slates, perfect laboratories (Matsuda 2007).  Recent controversies surrounding the construction of a new Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) atop Mauna Kea have sparked vigorous protest campaigns and legal battles. Indigenous Hawaiians wish to protect this sacred site from further development, a peak with twelve existing telescope facilities already. The Hawaii Supreme Court granted the TMT permits in July, 2017. However, opponents have pledged to appeal the ruling as a violation of their indigenous sovereignty, reminiscent of historic colonial power relations (Gagné 2012).

Nearby, on sister peak Mauna Loa, the other sky-high mountain of Hawaii, a NASA dome installation provides a training habitat for future astronauts. This undertaking, meant to study human behavior under extreme conditions of solitude, supplies virtual reality (VR) goggles to offer astronauts relief from the monotonous, red, rocky rubble landscape. This island mountain is a laboratory, simulating the isolated and empty landscape of Mars, in preparation to colonize the planet. The New York Times has been documenting these experiences with their own VR experience, where readers can join the astronaut trainees in the dome and their VR therapy through NYT VR. This virtual reality within a virtual reality is a layered, meta representation, a simulacrum (Deleuze 2004; Massumi 1987). This paper explores how ongoing colonial regimes and island landscapes are blurred temporally and spatially with distant space colonies on these sky-high, cosmic mountaintops.

KEYWORDS: Island studies, environmental sovereignty, Hawaii.

TRAVEL GRANT: AAG-NSF junior scholar travel grant $1,400.

SESSIONS: Queering Environmental Regulation

ORGANIZERS: May Farrales and Dawn Hoogeveen

“Environmental regulation functions through discrete timelines with linear notions of progress. Often, timelines are criticized for being unreasonable with unreachable deadlines (in Canada, for example, in 2012 Bill C-38 was criticized for axing timelines in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, see Doelle 2012). Given the linear and bounded logics of environmental regulation, including, the limitations of “significance determination” and a “valued components” approach to project assessment — this call for papers examines the messiness or nonlinear in a move to “queer” logics of environmental regulation. We propose a queer analysis of time, space, and environment to examine how cultural indicators, economic and environmental value are constituted in environmental regulation and project assessment. Our move to queer environmental regulation, seeks to further challenge what defines a “meaningful and efficient” regulatory process (Udofia, Noble, and Poelzer 2017). This is crucial as rural, often Indigenous communities historically and in the settler colonial present continue to bear the largest burden of state and proponent based linear (mis)calculations of time, efficiency, and meaning in regulatory processes.

We propose to query the dilemma of time, value, and environmental regulation by bringing environmental studies together with queer theories. We are inspired by José Muñoz’s dissatisfaction with what he called “straight time” and its propensity to only imagine futurities that replicate the “here and now” (2009). Muñoz put forward that alternative futures are possible if normative temporalities can be dislodged and disrupted. We are also informed by recent moves in Indigenous scholarship, like Driftpile Cree Nation scholar Billy-Ray Belcourt’s A Poltergeist Manifesto (2016). In this work, he questions, “[what it would mean] to persist in the space of savagery, exhausting the present and holding out for futures that are not obsessed with the proper boundary between human and nonhuman life?” (2016, p. 24). This boundary between the human and nonhuman world that rests on, as Belcourt puts it “a history of eliminating recalcitrant indigeneities incompatible within a supposedly hygienic social,” (2016, p.22) is necessarily reified in environmental regulation.

Motivated by Muñoz’s refrain that “queerness is always in the horizon” and Belcourt’s blurring of the delineation between human and non-human life, we welcome a range of theoretical and/or empirically based papers that trouble dominant temporalities and nodes of production and meaning in environmental regulation.”

Belcourt, B.R. 2016. A Poltergeist Manifesto, feral feminisms: Feral Theory. (6) pp 22-32.
Doelle, M. 2012. “CEAA 2012: The End of Federal EA as We Know It?” Journal of
Environmental Law and Practice (24)
Muñoz, J.E., 2009. Cruising utopia: The then and there of queer futurity. NYU Press.
Udofia, A. Noble, B., Poelzer, G. 2017 “Meaningful and efficient? Enduring challenges to Aboriginal participation in environmental assessment”, Environmental Impact Assessment Review. (65) pp164-174.

Vanessa Sloan Morgan
Rosemary Collard
Katherine G. Sammler
Dawn Hoogeveen

JP Catungal
Natalie Oswin
May Farrales

See Also: Colonial pasts and futures atop Hawaii’s sacred peaks, 2017–