Hawaiians protest telescope at meeting of International Astronomical Union

The story of the protests over construction of a telescope in Hawaii continues. The demonstration occurred at the meeting of the International Astronomical Union in Honolulu.

Demonstration over Thirty Meter Telescope comes after arrests near Mauna Kea construction site.

Demonstrators carrying Hawaiian flags — some upside-down, as a sign of distress — held a press conference outside the Honolulu convention centre to make their case against the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), which is set to be built on Mauna Kea. TMT: no more desecration” read one sign. “We don’t want your big toy telescopes on our sacred mountain” read another.

Source: Hawaiian telescope project sparks protests at astronomy meeting

We wrote about this story in October of 2014. It was a thorny issue then, as now. What does “sacred” mean? Who defines it? Do the protestors have a right to reject this project based on their claims? Does the other side have the right to overrule the claims? Is the telescope “desecration”? There are no clear answers.


  12 comments for “Hawaiians protest telescope at meeting of International Astronomical Union

  1. jockmcdock
    August 5, 2015 at 5:08 PM

    We Australians have similar concerns. Our indigenous people have a very earth-based spirituality. Certain features (e.g. rocks, mountains, creeks) are “no-go” areas for indigenous locals because of their beliefs.

    It’s not an easy question to answer.

  2. August 5, 2015 at 5:09 PM

    According to the article, “Mauna Kea’s 4,200-metre summit currently hosts 13 astronomical observatories”. I would like to know why they think they need another one.

    Hope to read more about this issue. And I’m glad there are talks going on between the sides.

  3. Phil
    August 5, 2015 at 5:42 PM

    While I don’t believe in anything having supernatural powers, some places are more respected than others. It’s the same here, the tomb of the Unknown soldier is more revered than the parking lot of 7-11.
    In addition what wrong with rebuilding existing sites? Can we not leave certain sites alone ? Must we build on everything if there’s already a good location?

  4. ZenDruid
    August 5, 2015 at 6:37 PM

    Just let Madame Pele decide. It’s Her mountaintop after all.

  5. Lagaya1
    August 5, 2015 at 11:34 PM

    I bet one reason the ancient culture revered the mountain so much is the fact that you’re above the clouds where you can see the sky so beautifully.

    At this point, the protests have become a “happening”, so anyone with the time and nothing better to do is joining in.

  6. MisterNeutron
    August 6, 2015 at 7:44 AM

    These parties need not be in opposition to each other. I’d be willing to bet that the native Hawaiians have always had a strong interest in the stars. Why not regard the telescopes as a way to study them? The example of Kitt Peak and the Tohono O’odham is instructive:


  7. Bob Young
    August 6, 2015 at 4:38 PM

    Victoria: A thirty meter telescope will be the largest on the planet and will be much more effective. The location is one of the best on Earth for observing: a mid-ocean volcanic island with rounded topography. Whether they could have replaced existing facilities with this I’m not sure, probably.

  8. Lagaya1
    August 6, 2015 at 6:19 PM

    I am not a scientist, but Hawaii seems to me to be one of the most vulnerable places if a meteor should strike. A strike anywhere in the Pacific would leave us open to enormous tsunamis. Perhaps the scientists should emphasize the danger to Hawaii’s inhabitants, and the need to have time to react.

  9. MisterNeutron
    August 6, 2015 at 6:43 PM

    The TMT is not an instrument for hunting for asteroids or comets that are heading towards Earth. This is a telescope for probing deep into space, looking at large-scale structures in the universe, examining galaxy formation, looking for evidence supporting theories of how planetary systems are created, and so on.

  10. Dan
    August 6, 2015 at 7:33 PM

    As a brown-skinned third-worlder, I find these “indigenous” protests amusing. It’s nothing more than anti-science, anti-colonial thinking. I doubt that any of them really practice their”indigenous” religions.

  11. Phil
    August 6, 2015 at 7:35 PM

    The astronomers side had not been well elucidated. If the site is the only one above cloud level then I could support it. If on the other hand it’s some sort of funding for a green field site when there are existing observatories, then I would not.

  12. Lagaya1
    August 6, 2015 at 7:57 PM

    One thing that hasn’t been mentioned and probably should: The majority of protests came with the beginning of construction. There was little if any testimony against the telescope before the project was started, even though nothing was done behind closed doors and we all knew the telescope was being planned and being funded. Where were the protesters before this last minute attempt to stop it?

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