As plans for a controversial large Thirty Meter Telescope [TMT] to be built on Mauna Kea, Big Island, move forward, locals have joined to oppose the project while others support the idea.
The proposed observatory’s design calls for a 180-feet-tall dome that Ipo Pule, a recent BYU–Hawaii graduate from Wahiawa, Hawaii, said is upsetting. “This is much more than just protecting the Mauna [mountain]. Yes, the Mauna is sacred to Hawaiian people, but it’s also important to anyone who considers themselves lovers and stewards of the land no matter where in the world they are from.”
According to Hawaii News Now [HNN], Mauna Kea measures more than 32,000 feet from its base on the ocean floor to its summit above the clouds, technically making it the highest mountain in the world. Thirteen telescopes already sit on top of the mountain.
Mauna Kea was selected in 2009 as the site for the telescope and in the following year the environmental impact statement was approved by then Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle. The statement was ruled in favor in 2014 by a circuit judge in an early legal challenge against the project. The project began in 2015 with numerous challenges and protests delaying the project until the announcement made on July 15, 2019, that construction would begin on Mauna Kea, according to HNN.
Pule remarked, “When TMT was first announced years ago, I didn’t like the idea at all. [However], I wasn’t actively protecting the Mauna or talking about it. This time around, it hit me. Perhaps I’m more educated in my language and history. Perhaps because of my deepened love for the hula, which is the keeper of stories, that teach us about our people and our land.”
However, River Gilson, a senior double major in history and secondary education from the Big Island, Hawaii, said he supports the building of TMT. “I think it’s great. Good for the economy, and it will bring lots of jobs.”
“It’s also supposed to revolutionize the way we see the universe because of how advanced it is, and it will render other telescopes as not necessary, which can lead to the taking down of those telescopes and revival of some of the land on top of Mauna Kea.”
Heather Kealani Haney, a junior double majoring in Hawaiian studies and biology from Big Island, Hawaii, who is currently on the Big Island and joining in the protests in support at Mauna Kea, said, “This is a gathering of people standing up for their land, standing firm for what they believe in.
“Everyone at Mauna Kea is all about Kapu Aloha [peaceful protest]. I have seen the respect that the protectors have given to law enforcement; feeding them and making sure they are taken care of as well as the keiki, kupuna and everyone else at Pu’uhuluhulu. There is so much aloha present there.”
Haney explained, “Mauna Kea is sacred. But this protest of Mauna Kea is more than just Mauna Kea. It is our voices speaking up against corporations, developers and others showing them that we will not be silent.
“I feel that the Thirty Meter Telescope is not necessary here in Hawaii. There are already 13 telescopes on top of Mauna Kea and with this new telescope, it is supposed to shave off the top half of the mountain as well as desecrate the land.”
Numerous protests have been held throughout the state of Hawaii, including locally in Hau’ula, the North Shore, Waikiki, and various places around the United States and the world. They continue at Mauna Kea as well.