Hawaii Hates Science, Tells Thirty Meter Telescope to Go to Chile

The Sierra Club and other protesters don't want another telescope on the Big Island and threaten to sue the project out of the Islands.

Caught sight of this editorial in the Star-Advertiser from Nelson Ho, co-chair of the Sierra Club’s Mauna Kea Issues Committee. He’s opposed to Caltech’s Thirty Meter Telescope project, to be built on the summit of Mauna Kea, and thinks the project should be sent to Chile instead. I can’t think of a more obvious example of Hawaii’s anti-science, anti-progress, anti-Mainland attitude than Ho’s rant:

“TMT’s massive dome, support building, roads and utilities will devastate a beautiful plateau within a State Historic District, so designated for its cultural sites and significance, and that is habitat for rare and endangered plants and animals. The giant dome will overlook Waimea, creating yet another eyesore visible from coastal and mountaintop areas. Years of construction will bring equipment, noise, dust and windblown construction debris. When completed, TMT will add more noise and visual intrusions that interfere with traditional Hawaiian astronomical and other ceremonies, along with other industrial impacts further damaging Mauna Kea’s beauty and spiritual ambience. … While some political elites have already agreed to California’s project, we’re confident TMT can be stopped, either at this summer’s Board of Regents and BLNR meetings—where islanders will again voice their opposition—or, if need be, in court.”

Ho goes on to argue that jobs created by new Target stores on the Big Island are somehow better than jobs created by the telescope and repeatedly makes digs on how some of the telescope’s jobs will go to folks who aren’t from around here—and apparently we don’t like their kind, no, not one bit.

What is the goal of the telescope that has Ho so bent out of shape? Since I quoted Ho, let me quote the TMT’s case for itself (do read both in full):

“A 30-meter telescope, operating in wavelengths ranging from the ultraviolet to the mid-infrared, is an essential tool to address questions in astronomy ranging from understanding star and planet formation to unraveling the history of galaxies and the development of large-scale structure in the universe.”

In other words, Caltech would like to investigate the mysteries of the universe itself from a peak in Hawaii—and in response they get people like Ho acting as if this were the moral equivalent of BP wanting to drill for oil on Mauna Kea! The proposed telescope is gorgeous (renderings here) but to Ho and his fellow travelers, it’s just an “industrial eyesore.” The telescope’s purpose represents the highest aspirations of a sentient species trying to peacefully understand its place in the cosmos, but to Ho and his type, it’ll just mess up the scenery and make jobs for outsiders. So abhorrent is this telescope that its opponents threaten lawsuits to stop it, the way other neighborhoods might sic lawyers on a proposed landfill.

Why is it that the only people we ever hear from in this state are the ones who shout “No!” to everything? Hawaii could be a part of something larger than itself with a project like this, could be proud of the part it plays in the story of how humanity figured out the heavens. Instead, we get the angry shouts of protestors who want us to stay small, silent and insignificant.