After several hiccups, the Thirty Meter Telescope has been approved for construction, but native Hawaiians still aren’t happy and won’t stop fighting the cause. Mauna Kea is considered sacred grounds that’s already home to 13 telescopes. (Photo from Flickr)
The Thirty Meter Telescope is meant to be the world’s largest telescope, but its journey has been a difficult one. Since its initial approval in 2011, its planned construction atop of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea has been halted numerous times. Recently, the project received major approval from the state. The state’s land board granted the project construction approval in a 5-2 vote, but this doesn’t mean those opposed to the telescope will stop fighting.
Mauna Kea is considered sacred grounds and holds religious and cultural significance to Native Hawaiians. Many activists have put a lot of effort into halting construction over the years, including blocking construction crews from heading up the mountain in 2015 and the project’s website being hacked in the same year. The state’s Supreme Court even stepped in to nullify the project’s permit in December 2015 since it was granted without giving those opposed a chance to air their concerns.
To make matters worse, the Thirty Meter Telescope wouldn’t be the first on the grounds. There are already 13 telescopes built on it. Mauna Kea is a popular spot because it provides a clear view for most of the year with limited light and air pollution. This new one is supposed to give us a deeper view into the universe. With it being three times wider than the current largest visible-light telescope and with a high resolution, it’s supposed to be better than the Hubble Space Telescope.
The project’s new permits come with some stipulations. First, they have to commit to cultural and natural resources training, and they have to follow strict environmental regulations. They also have to hire local residents for jobs generated by the project “to the greatest extent possible.”
Despite these stipulations, natives are still not happy with the move and are already filing motions to put the permit on hold until an appeal can be heard by Hawaii’s Supreme Court. Protest leader Kahookahi Kanuha said “For the Hawaiian people, I have a message: This is our time to rise as a people. This is our time to take back all of the things that we know are ours. All the things that were illegally taken from us."
Not all Native Hawaiians are opposed to the construction. Many believe it will create great opportunities for kids and will greatly benefit the community. Also, the observatories on Mauna Kea are a big part of Hawaii’s economy brining in about $60 million in earnings and taxes in 2012. With this latest addition, they would receive a great boost in earnings. Even if the new telescope goes ahead as planned, it’s clear protestors aren’t going down without a fight.
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