You have probably heard at least a little something about the drama unfolding around a telescope in Hawaii. For years now, telescopes have been popping up all over the famed Mauna Kea. It’s a perfect place for star-gazing—the low moisture content of the air coupled with the relative absence of light pollution makes it possible to observe of the faintest galaxies that lie at the very edge of the observable Universe.
But not everything is about science. Protesters have taken a stand against the most recent telescope, construction of which was slated to start in mid-July. Known as the Thirty Meter Telescope, or TMT, the looking glass would be the most powerful one on earth. Mauna Kea, of course, is a sacred place for Hawaiians, and a lot of them are fed up with what’s happened to Mauna Kea. Native Hawaiians have been using it as a place of worship for centuries, but starting around the ’90s, things were changing, and changing fast.
“I can remember the day that I really turned that corner when I started to realize that the human landscape was becoming dominant,” Kealoha Pisciotta, President of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, a non-profit organization that advocates for greater protections of Mauna Kea, told Gizmodo. “The sacred landscape [was] being pushed down and suppressed and tampered with and destroyed.”
Fast forward to today, when hundreds of protesters are blocking the road. The Governor issued an Emergency Proclamation, and peaceful protesters were shackled and carted away.
It’s not just non-scientists that are against the telescope, either. Some 500 astronomers signed an open letter slamming the way the project is being pushed through in spite of indigenous peoples’ protests. “We write today not to place a value judgment on the future of TMT on Mauna Kea, but to question the methods by which we are getting the telescope on the mountain in the first place,” the letter says. “We ask whether expedience must come through violation of consent and leverage of apparatuses of state-sanctioned violence.”
The debacle might be a little convoluted for some people to follow, but recently Tuntadun Films, a Hawaiian comedy group, created a short video that perfectly explains the feelings of many of those opposed to the TMT.