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Stene: Thirty Meter Telescope Protests

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Aaron Stene | Special to Hawaii 24/7

Governor Ige’s administration, and to a lesser extent, the County of Hawaii, are doing a poor job handling the ongoing Thirty Meter Telescope protests on Mauna Kea. The governor’s proposed changes to the stewardship of Mauna Kea offended both the protesters and the individuals who’ve helped preserve this sensitive area.

The protesters were mainly unhappy the governor reaffirmed the TMT’s legal right to begin construction, but there were other aspects of the revised stewardship plan the protesters were not pleased about. They were also unhappy the removal of ¼ of all the existing telescopes and imposing access restrictions to the summit area, among other issues

The governor’s stewardship changes also offended the individuals who’ve helped preserve Mauna Kea. It was like a slap to the face when the governor stated the University of Hawaii and Department of Land and Natural Resources have been poor stewards of Mauna Kea. There were issues with the stewardship of Mauna Kea in the past. However, there has been immeasurable improvements over the past 15 years. The execution of the Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan in 2010 was one of the highlights of these recent improvements.

Governor Ige’s administration also dropped the ball as far as dealing with these ongoing Thirty Meter Telescope protests. His administration has allowed these protesters to illegally encamp at Hale Pohaku for the past three months and obstruct access to the summit area. Yes, these protesters have a constitutionally protected right to protest, but they shouldn’t break the law in the process.

The elephant the room is the ongoing Hawaii sovereignty debate. The latter has Trojan horsed itself into the current debate over the Thirty Meter Telescope. The State and County of Hawaii are playing softball with these groups as a result. For example, the Hawaii County prosecutor is considering dropping criminal trespass charges against the first wave of 21 protesters in lieu of initiating ho’oponopono with these individuals. This will entail holding discussions with the governor, the University of Hawaii, Thirty Meter Telescope, DLNR, etc.

The Thirty Meter Telescope has undergone a seven year public vetting process. These individuals had ample opportunity express their concerns about this project during this time. In short, this is simply another stalling tactic that is being employed by the opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

As it stands now, the Thirty Meter Telescope has the legal right to initiate construction until the appellate courts say otherwise. I hope Governor Ige gets a backbone and stops pandering to the interests of these protesters.

One Response to “Stene: Thirty Meter Telescope Protests”

  1. Mark Miller says:

    Many believe the UH is pandering to outside interests including the University of California, Caltech (this was , after all originally called the California Extremely Large Telescope) Canada, Japan and the US Military for the TMT’s defense capabilities as part of the “Star Wars” program (which is why it is associated with the Death Star).

    Having a legal right, as many know, does not mean that right was obtained in the proper legal process or that the concerns of the indigenous peoples has really been addressed or listened to at all.

    The legal right is also somewhat blurred by the original lease calling for ONE telescope and now they want one of the largest pieces of machinery in the islands to go up on Mauna Kea.

    I really can’t blame the Governor a whole lot, although I do urge him to request a hold until after the Supreme Court hears the appeal. But the real issue is the conservation of the mauna. The protection of, not just a sacred space, but one of the crown jewels of Hawaii is a very important issue. Not having the TMT in Hawaii…or for that matter, at all, will not be a loss for humanity. its not like there aren’t already two other giant telescopes already being made. They will see as far and further than what is proposed by the TMT. So why bother? Just to prove you can? To be first? To be biggest? At what cost? It’s more than money we lose here.

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