Hawaiians are furious over a telescope — here’s why

Hawaiians are furious over a telescope — here’s why

The Thirty Meter Telescope was shot down by Hawaiian courts recently -- but why are Hawaiians so angry about it to begin with?

As we reported recently, the Supreme Court of Hawaii threw out a building permit for the Thirty Meter Telescope after a huge uproar among Hawaiians — but why are they so angry over this piece of equipment?

The Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources had issued a building permit for the Thirty Meter Telescope, but had not held a hearing on the issue that would have allowed Hawaiians to contest it, the court ruled. As a result, the Board will have to have a contested case hearing in order to re-issue the permit, and expect Hawaiians to show up in force — they are not happy about a proposal to build a huge telescope on the top of Mauna Kea, which is the highest point in Hawaii.

It pits native Hawaiians against the scientific community, which argues that TMT would be a huge boon to research efforts, peering deep into the universe with a piece of equipment that would be one of the most powerful in the world.

Why is there such disagreement? Hawaiians are a proud people with deep traditions, and they consider Mauna Kea to be a sacred place. As a result, they don’t like the idea of a huge construction project placing a massive eight-story building on top of the mountain. Although other telescopes have been placed on it before, they’re nowhere near as big as the TMT is proposed to be.

Native Hawaiians not only don’t like the idea of a construction project ripping up sacred ground, a place that has traditionally been home to deities and religious ceremonies, but feel that their concerns have been steamrolled by those pushing the project.

TMT construction began in April but protesters immediately attempted to block vehicles from reaching the summit, arguing that astronomers wouldn’t properly value the indigenous rights of Hawaiians and the mountain itself. They feel that people don’t respect the mountain or the Hawaiian people’s traditions.

“We thank the Hawaii Supreme Court for the timely ruling and we respect their decision,” said Henry Yang, the chair of the TMT International Observatory Board of Directors, in a statement in response to the ruling. “TMT will follow the process set forth by the state, as we always have. ¬†We are assessing our next steps on the way forward. We appreciate and thank the people of Hawaii and our supporters from these last eight-plus years.”

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