The popular opinion in Hawaii is more and more against a project that would change the way the world looks at one of the most remote US states. The Hawaiians want to refuse a $1.4bn telescope on Mauna Kea on account of it being destructive of their sacred mountain.
The mount holds a total of 250 shrines and burial sites and the activists are concerned that the project would totally ruin the spiritual power and the beautiful scenery of the mountain. The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) would be 18 stories high and would have a privileged position in the world of astronomy. Michael Bolte, one of the main organizers of the project and a professor of astronomy at the University of California at Santa Cruz, has made a bold declaration saying that considering the modifications made to the project and the importance of the project as a whole, there are no more legal issues. His interview ended with his stating of the fact that someone standing in front of a bulldozer isn’t a legal issue.
And by someone standing in front of the bulldozers he means a small group of protesters which affiliate themselves with the Hawaii Environmental Organization. Last year in April, 31 of these protesters were arrested when the first transport of materials to the construction site had begun. This prompted the state’s Governor, Mr. David Ige, to temporarily halt the project.
The project began once again last week, with the governor’s approval, and then the same thing happened. Twelve protesters were arrested this time since they refused to clear the path for the workers.
This whole battle between science has stirred up quite a lot of controversy in the online medium. In a post for the Hawaii Environmental Alliance, activist Kealoha Pisciotta wrote that the mountain represents the fundamental tie of the Hawaiian natives with creation.
Writing for the New York Times, science columnist George Johnson said that this turn of events can be seen as a return to the dark ages, and blamed the transculturalist approach towards Native Americans for the fact that these protesters are actually taken seriously.
In opposition to Johnson’s views came a PhD student at the University of Hawaii who defended his fellow natives by stating that every attempt at cultural defense by the Hawaiian people has been always dismissed by saying that it is their own inability to adapt to modern times.
Last, but not least, a more moderate opinion comes from Chad Kalepa Baybayan, writing for the West Hawaiian Today, that tradition and science need not be opposed, yet should work together since the ancestors of the Hawaiian people had only sought knowledge which would benefit the community. Baybayan argues that the TMT could greatly benefit the community through science.
As the debate on this subject goes on, the Hawaii Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in August, which will determine if the protesters along with the Hawaiian university are right.
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