Under Hawaii’s Starriest Skies, a Fight Over Sacred Ground

Oct 04, 2016 · 316 comments
Harry (Michigan)
Sorry but your volcano God is dead. Soon humans will all be dead also because we can't seem to work together. There isn't one spot on this earth that I do not consider sacred, not one millimeter. This isn't a strip mall for gods sake.
Nuschler (anywhere near a marina)
I was a kama’aina for over 60 years-a “haole” white person who lived in the islands but didn’t have a drop of Polynesian blood,

I loved the ‘aina (land) and the kai (sea) and was a steward of the islands. But we were HATED by the Polynesians--the Hawai’ians, Tongans, Samoans because we didn’t have the blood of the indigent people. They even have “Kill a haole day” at the public schools. More parents--military, haole, Asian-Americans send their children to private schools per capita than ANY other state in the union. And it’s expensive! Obama’s school is the second most expensive-Why? Because haoles and Asians are beaten up EVERY DAY in the public schools.
Hawaii Preparatory Academy's tuition for students in grades 9 through 12 is $22,300 (Punahou School is $19,950, and that's for grades K through 12.)

If you have even one drop of Hawai’ian blood you can send your keiki (children) to the Hawai’ian Bishops’s Estate Kamehameha Schools. Tuition is $2,000 to $4,000/yr.
This part of a will (A Hawai’ian princess married a white investor and left a large estate with a lot of land) for the education of children. Constantly being challenged as it isn’t clear who the “children of Hawai’i” are. Born there? Hawai’ian blood? The poor vs the rich?

But Hawai’ians sold their land in the grand melee where the land was divided up and sold to white people. 95% of Hawai’ians voted YES for statehood in 1959! Now demanding rights--gathering rights for maile leaves!

Auwe! (Oh-vay!)
neal (Westmont)
I think in general the we should defer significantly to the wishes of the indigenous population, especially as its a clear cut case to me that their land was stolen (and much more recently then 350 years ago). If the scientific and corporate interests do insist in forcing the issue, they can do much better than $1m/year for a multi billion dollar project. Put $100 million upfront in a trust administered by and for the benefit of natives (who have substantial poverty), and perhaps minds could be changed that they care about the people and the mountain.
Nuschler (anywhere near a marina)
Gathering Rights--sure! The same indigenous fauna and flora grow on each 8 islands. When you go to Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawai’i over by Hilo, you can see how our islands formed. You can watch the lava flowing to the sea building up MORE island. From the sulfur steam and rivers you can see the new shoots of plants coming up through the fresh black lava.

Hawai’ians built villages in the path of the lava flows! They refuse to leave then put our First Responders --their OWN people in harm’s way! Their demigods like Pele won’t let them get hurt. No matter how much they pray the 2100 F degree lava DOES burn the wooden shacks down.

I’m a haole kama’aina (long time resident of Hawai’i) who will NEVER be Hawai’ian...no matter how many of my generations live there. You move to New York, you’re a New Yorker...not so in the islands. I set up medical clinics in underserved areas, work 100-120 hrs a week and still told “FHaoleB--go back to mainland.” Instead of living together in peace, the local Hawai’ians, Samoans, Tongans, and now Micronesians beat us up, fight our children DAILY in public schools--Go home haole! Well THIS IS my home.

95% voted for statehood, but now are fighting--each other for sovereignty rights! There are over 25 self described groups who want control--all bickering with each other. One such tribe didn’t want wind turbines for alt energy as it would “block” the trade winds!

It’s NOT paradise anymore for anyone.

Paradise? Ha!
BigToots (Colorado Springs, CO)
For decades Hawaiians and kama'ainas alike have watched in dismay as for profit interests have trashed the Hawaiian Islands. The TMT is more about $$$$ than it is about improving the Big Island's economy (a casino would accomplish that!) or scientific inquiry.
Richard Huber (New York)
Every time I hear the phrase "sacred ground" I cringe. What nonsense!

I do not believe that native Hawaiians are any less intelligent that the rest of us. Clearly they no longer believe in colorful myths about sacred mountains (any more than the Indians of North Dakota believe that the land near a pipeline under construction is sacred) nor the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.

These are devices used by those who have usually selfish reasons to oppose whatever is being proposed to be built.
John Smith (Crozet, VA)
Similar issues arose surrounding construction of the Kitt Peak Observatory in Arizona ( https://www.noao.edu/kpno/ ). Has anyone looked at how that was successfully resolved?
Lynn Paul Richardson (Hilo, Hawaii)
I have been a banana farmer on the Big Island for 39 years. In general the state has done a poor job of managing the mountain. The anti TMT movement is primarily a publicity stunt by the sovereignty movement. Astronomy and Hawaiian practices can coexist on the mountain. We don't have to choose between an incompetent bureaucracy and a Demon Haunted World.
Charles W. (NJ)
It has been said that expecting efficiency and/or accuracy from a government bureaucracy is a definition of insanity.
Joseph (Ohio)
It's very disheartening that so many commenters here want to reduce this story into an archetypal superstition-versus-science issue while blatantly ignoring the tremendous historical impact of foreign sociocultural forces on the Hawaiian people. It's perhaps more disheartening that this really isn't surprising. It's always easier to ignore nuance than it is to endure the pain of cognitive dissonance.
Richard Williams (Davis, Ca)
The obvious problem is that anyone can sincerely maintain that a particular site or object is sacred to them. This obviously cannot be refuted. If however such claims are routinely honored above any other consideration a great deal will be lost to everyone else, in particular scientific knowledge. This recently occurred in the case of Kennewick Man; very important science, not to mention scientific careers, are compromised or simply destroyed. These values must be respected as well.
Jay Lincoln (NYC)
It's a big freaking island. Using a few acres at the top where no one lives won't hurt anyone and will help science. Easy call.
Molly Ciliberti (Seattle)
Indigenous people have a different relationship with nature. It is a difference of cultures and values. White people should respect other cultures and their values. It isn't a matter of right and wrong; it is what you value. As a Saami, I agree wholeheartedly with the Hawaiians. If these lands are supposed to be managed for the Hawaiian people than they should support their beliefs and values.
Fred Norman (Monterey, CA)
If you spent anytime on an Indian reservation, you would quickly see that their "respect" for the land is much less than your or mine.
LMCA (NYC)
Critics of the opposition need to rethink their position and think: would we allow someone to demolish
... the Great Pyramids of Giza?
... the Sistine Chapel?
... the Great Wall of China?
all in the name of scientific progress? Just because they were based on faulty beliefs?

We protect cultural heritage sites because they tell the story of humanity. How many non-Buddhists were outraged when the Talibans bombed the Buddha statues at Bamiyan? Plenty of people.

On top of that, the article clearly states: "An environmental impact study performed by NASA in 2007 similarly concluded that 30 years of astronomy had caused “significant, substantial and adverse” harm to Mauna Kea."

Also note the very special connection these people have with the top of the mountain: "There are no shrines on the very summit, he pointed out, which should be a lesson: Not even the most holy people are supposed to go there." Just like I can't just stroll into Vatican City and go into any old place; or go to Cambridge University and just stroll in at will.

Hawaiians have historically been treated like garbage on their own land. Stop dictating to them and listen to them.
Tim B (Seattle)
Very well said. It is time we recollect the many atrocities, and acts of outright greed, which have been foisted upon native peoples, the Americas have a long history of this going back centuries. I noticed too in the article how the original 'breaking ground' ceremony for the telescope was to have been private, as if to not attract much attention, hoping that there would be no one present with any ideas which might conflict with the erection of the telescope.
Frank Schulaner (Kealakekua HI)
"Cinder cones are burial sites." Native Hawaiians, and volcanologists, might suggest otherwise.
Mike (Wisconsin)
Making a symbolic shrine of Mauna Kea does not honor those brave adventurers who first discovered Hawaii. The spirit of adventure and intellectual exploration that allowed the ancient Polynesians to use the stars and waves to bridge the ocean and find Hawaii is alive today in the astronomers and curious children who want to use the TMT to learn from the universe surrounding us, not bury it in a false tradition.
waltero (Kailua Kona, HI)
As an outsider (from Atlanta) who now lives here, I try to understand and appreciate the Hawaiian position against the TMT project. But I just can't seem to get there. There are already a dozen telescopes on the mountain and the plan to build this new one actually also involves removing decommissioned telescopes. If this was about an unblemished native location/land where nothing existed but nature, I could understand the position. But the protesters seem to be trying to block this just for the sake of trying to protect what they want others to believe is sacred ground. This same argument could be made for the next hotel that wants to locate on the ocean. You can see both sides, but I believe progress must be made (do you know how long it's been since a 12-year old has said they want to be an astronaut? Well, I have one and she volunteers at Mauna Kea), and responsible progress is key and I think TMT has proven themselves to value both the land and Hawaiian culture. I see a lot of protesters who have nothing better to do with their time and like many protesters think protesting is "something to do." In other words, when I ask them what exactly they are protesting, they cannot answer the question in a meaningful way.
bern (La La Land)
Hey, Hawaiians, wake up. It's just a rock and belief is just a fantasy story. We, as Humans, want to know about the Universe. Let us find out what is REAL!
ak bronisas (west indies)
This deeply moving NYT documentary about Hawaiians protecting the sacred surface of Mauna Kea ,unknowingly, points out a primordial and deep human understanding, found universally in all human cultures, that respecting the earth by conserving its delicate living skin(proportionally as thin as the skin of an apple)is essential for survival .............this is not about land use,economics and employment,science and superstition,or legal rights.............its about preserving life itself on earth..............think about the climate and other environmental nightmares weve created...........then read TOUCH THE EARTH(T.E.McCluhan.1971) , breathtaking truths on nature by Native Americans...........who predicted what happens when we neglect the earth under our feet!.
Alex (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
This is essentially a common combination of the appeal to tradition and naturalistic fallacy. Most native cultures worshipped physical elements of the Earth. But, in doing so they did not necessarily respect the Earth. Polynesian cultures were responsible for the extinction of megafauna (e.g. Moa) and flora (e.g. Paschalococos). Stone Age Europeans wiped out an entire ecosystem that more closely resembled Africa than the Europe we know. The Native Americans at Chaco Canyon cut down nearly 225,000 trees to develop their Puebloan structures. Ancient people were just like us, Humans, and their belief systems were just as imperfect as we modern day humans are.
ak bronisas (west indies)
Alex......ask your Hopi neighbors about their tradition and respect for nature and study their environmental predictions.....their belief systems are not the "common"anthropocentric views that you as a" modern day human" believe ......quite the opposite....they understand that their lives DEPEND on nature.
Polynesian nature in the islands is quite intact.......except in the islands where "modern man"had moved in, testing nuclear weapons,mining,mindlessly cutting trees,and trawling.seining and longlining the ocean without care or respect for the future.The tropical fauna(if any)on Europe vanished because of climate change or tectonic movement...not destruction by paleolithic man ."Modern man" has destroyed 300,000 square miles of Amazon rain forest(considered by indigenous people and modern scientists as the "lungs of the earth"......when the earth cant breathe ,Alex,it starts to die...............that is not tradition or naturalistic fallacy,its happening as you read this fact.
John (Sacramento)
The obvious thing, for these anti-science, anti-American types, is to stop funding them. Perhaps there should be a an injunction against all building on the island, as it is sacred.
JerrytheK (Denver, CO)
Hyperbole is good, except in a science article. Mauna Kea is 13,796' high, or about 2.61 miles. That's a big round to get to three miles. I live in Colorado, where there are over 50 peaks in excess of 14,000'.

I've stood atop at least a dozen of them and my skin was never fried, despite hours--not minutes of exposure. "A few minutes in the sun will fry your skin."
Bjhlodnicki (Indianapolis)
Did you miss the fact that they were measuring Mauna Kea from its base on the sea floor?
josh_barnes (Honolulu, HI)
Umm, no. From the sea floor, Maunakea is at least 10,000 meters high. That's over 6 miles.
Curtis J. Neeley Jr. (Newark, AR, U.S.A.)
Science is only a good thing when pursuing "science" harms nobody.
Robert (New York)
So, once again we have ancient superstitions (IE Religion) trying to impede scientific inquiry.
Bill Briggs (Jupiter, Florida)
I would think that the use of the mountain for scientific purposes could be thought of by the native population as a way for the ancestral spirits to contribute to the furtherance of the nurturing and protection of their people. The scientific instruments can be thought of as extensions of the mountain itself, contributing to the search of universe for the answers that may one day save us, in the same way as the search for asteroids has become important to the possible survival of life on Earth by finding and intercepting extinction level collision threats.

The natives of the islands used to stars to find their way to safety in centuries past, and to use the mountain to find our scientific way by the stars can be thought of as an extension of that.
EE (NYC)
Who is Hawaiian, anyway? Very few Hawaiian citizens can claim full Hawaiian ancestry; many if not most are of mixed heritage. And there are more Japanese and Japanese-American people in the state than native Hawaiian people. How many aboriginal alleles does one need to start claiming he or she is Hawaiian? Moot point; you get to be Hawaiian if you feel like you are. Nothing wrong with that, but how does that trump the desire for knowledge? Some people may be culturally illiterate and insensitive, but a few protestors being scientifically illiterate and narrow-minded is a larger problem, and ceasing the quest for knowledge (hardly a crime against humanity) is the largest problem here.
Macky (Honolulu, Hawaii)
Hawaiian people are the "traditional" ethnic race to inhabit the Hawaiian Islands. Similar to the American Indians that inhabited the Americas. The Hawaiians show up on scene to protest the freely use of their claimed stolen land, illegally by American businessmen with the help of the US Navy at the time. As scientist seek for knowledge of the Universe, the Hawaiians show up to show the knowledge that is right in front of them to show the presence of other humans and their
"traditional" culture that is here. In Europe, there is still "traditional" white culture today. All traditional culture is bypassed and the future is looked upon of understanding humanity and the Universe. "traditional" culture is secretive so most human unless they turn to "traditional" knowledge they continue to bypass knowledge to seek further knowledge.
Richard (Beavercreek, OH)
Although not a native Hawaiian, I also consider Mauna Kea to be a sacred place, *because* of the telescopes that reside there. I believe it is our sacred duty to explore the universe in which we live, and more of that exploration takes place on Mauna Kea than anywhere else on Earth. I have visited the peak to literally worship at the feet of the great telescopes there.

That said, it is no easy matter to reach an appropriate balance between the conflicting interests here. Certainly the views of the native Hawaiians must be respected. Is it really necessary to build larger and larger telescopes there? Wouldn't it be better to build such telescopes in orbit or on the moon? Unfortunately for practical purposes all that matters is what you can get funding for. If only those who love and honor the mountain could see the exploration of the universe as a respectful and sacred use of the mountain. Failing that, I'm afraid the conflict has no good resolution.
Leptoquark (Washington DC)
It seems to me both parties in this dispute have the same goals: the pursuit of the knowledge about the world and understanding our place in it. The only difference are the tools. From reading this article, it sounds like the astronomers would do well to think of the telescopes as if they were in a national park and treat the site as such. But to restrict or remove them would be saying there is only one right path to know the universe. Who am I to judge the value of the curiosity of another human mind?
bshort0918 (New jersey)
A quick fact check...cinder cones are not burial sites as one of the protestors said. Am I missing something here or is this just how Hawaiians symbolically fantasize about their heirs.
skfs (baltimore, md)
The people who live there don't want it. Don't take what is not yours. It is really that simple. It is the greed for the site that is stirring so much hostility and resentment. Why do the locals have to give up what they rightly see is theirs (I have seen the sunsets over Mauna Kea, walked the desolate land) for the benefits of scientific knowlege? The Hawaiians see this as their sacred place. Respect it. Leave.
Colenso (Cairns)
'The groundbreaking was never intended to be a public event, said Bob McClaren, associate director of the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy, which is responsible for scientific activities on the mountain.

“I thought it was reasonable to restrict access to those who were invited,” he said.'

Was this mere arrogance on the part of McLaren, rudeness and lack of basic courtesy, being badly brought up by his parents – or does this perhaps indicate something deeper at play?

When I read undergraduate physics, I discovered that while some academic physicists were truly brilliant polymaths of the first water, many successful academic physicists and postgrads in the department were virtually autistic. They were extremely shy, apparently almost incapable of communicating intelligently with others, and it seemed to me had chosen physics in large part in order to isolate themselves from the common throng where they felt very uncomfortable.

Obviously, astronomy is extremely important. It is less important, however, than the rights of native Hawaiians to have the final say in what happens in their ancient realm.

Because of the diffraction effects of the earth's atmosphere, we will always build much better space and lunar telescopes than we can terrestrial telescopes. The problem is the maintenance and repair of non-terrestrial devices. Hence, gather all who would prefer to live in a lighthouse and use them to populate the space and lunar telescopes.
jpduffy3 (New York, NY)
As our ability to learn more about the universe in which we live improves dramatically, we are thirsting for the knowledge these improvements can bring. The knowledge we seek could open many important avenues for us, and we cannot be held back by antiquated ideas and superstitions. There has to be a reasonable compromise between those who want to keep things the way they are and those who want to have a fuller understanding about who we are in the universe.
Matthew Smith (Orlando, FL)
It is clear from reading these comments that there is an incredible amount of ignorance of Hawaiian culture and how the US took their island from them and sovereignty. The NY Times comment community only care about cultural rights when it doesn't get in the way of other agendas they have -- it is not universally applied and is therefore not worth much.
Colenso (Cairns)
I agree 100% Matthew. Great comment.
Lee Harrison (Albany)
My grandmother was 2 years old and growing up on the outskirts of Honolulu when the US annexed the islands. I know all about it.

And I still want the telescope built on Mauna Kea.
Bjhlodnicki (Indianapolis)
When was your grandmother born?
Because the coup d'état of the Hawaiian monarchy began on 17 January 1893. U.S. citizens with the support of U.S. Marines overthrew Queen Lili'uokalani.
ELBK-T (NYC)
Surely there must be another site for the telescope that is as good or almost as good. We annexed their island, should we trample on their religious beliefs as well? The native Hawaiians deserve respect and consideration on this issue.
NYer (NY)
Actually there is not another site even remotely as good as Mauna Kea. It is not just the high altitude and weather that sets Mauna Kea apart, it is the location itself. Mauna Kea is close to the equator which gives scientists a near 360 degree view into the universe. Further, because it is located on a relatively uninhabited and dark island in the middle of the Pacific Island (yet accessible), it severely limits man made lighting which allows astronomers unobstructed views. The combination of all these factors is what makes Mauna Kea a unique and ideal place for the most advance telescope yet.
Lee Harrison (Albany)
NO, there is no site that is "as good or almost as good."

Mauna Kea is unique. The next-best site(s) are tall peaks in the Atacama desert of Chile, but they experience more turbulence, and are in the southern hemisphere.

Telescopes at different latitudes see different parts of the sky.

A competitive very large telescope is being built in Chile, and it is ahead. The 30-meter telescope will not be relocated to Chile, no point.

Despite what Edward Stone says about "researching other sites" -- that's not really going to happen. If the telescope is denied access to Mauna Kea, many of the backers will pull out and it won't get built. There's no reason to spend the resources to build this telescope at an inferior site.
NYer (NY)
Actually there is not another site even remotely as good as Mauna Kea. It is not just the ultra high altitude and ideal weather that sets Mauna Kea apart, it is the location itself. Mauna Kea is close to the equator which gives scientists a near 360 degree view into the universe. Further, because it is located on a relatively uninhabited and dark island in the middle of the Pacific Island far away from large cities (yet accessible), it severely limits man made lighting which allows astronomers unobstructed views. Having a combination of all these factors is what makes Mauna Kea a truly unique and an ideal place for the most advance telescope yet.
CNNNNC (CT)
The native Hawaiian protest of TMT; the 13th telescope proposed for Mauna Kea, could also be considered indicative of anti-science, fundamentalist religious fervor and xenophobia.
On principle, what's the difference between these protestors and Conservative Christians teaching creationism or right wing extremists blocking federal land except that they have a politically advantageous 'story'?
Harsh but I have no patience for any religion shutting down valuable scientific research and I suspect this is more about people looking for a pay out.
Colenso (Cairns)
On principle, the key difference is that white conservative Christians have appropriated for their own ends the teachings of a Jewish neofoundationalist, aimed at returning his flock to the ways of old, while native Hawaiians rankle at their wholesale dispossession by the same white conservative Christians.
Dan (Portland, OR)
I just want to acknowledge the stunning Joe Marquez photograph featured in this article.
808Pants (Honolulu)
I often wondered if, at the inception of TMT planning, anyone floated the notion of collaborating with concerned Hawaiians on a design, or if this was considered and rejected because "they'd just interfere...best to keep it all in-house." Getting that kind of buy-in now is probably like trying to catch a ship that sailed a few years back.

It has long been known that the unmistakable gleam of telescopes at the summit, easily seen from many locations on the island, is no thing of beauty to many beholders. So one has to clap one's forehead and ask: WHY would the TMT design shoot itself in the foot by heaping on Mauna Kea the 18 stories'-worth of new summit-bling? Designer hubris?
KarlosTJ (Bostonia)
Yet another fight between religion, science, federal, and state government. In the end, the taxpayer always loses.
josh_barnes (Honolulu, HI)
I write as a slender crescent moon sets over Oahu.

If terminating the 30-meter telescope could resolve, correct, or repair the historic injustice done to the Hawaiian people, I would, as a professional astronomer, educator, and passoniate believer in social justice, instantly abandon my support for this project. I don't think I'm alone among my colleagues in this opinion; many of us feel deeply for our Hawaiian friends and neighbors, and have some understanding of the problems they face.

But I cannot understand how stopping the 30-meter will be anything more than a symbolic victory. Symbolism will not improve our educational system. It will not create opportunities for Hawaiians, or fix our decrepit infrastructure. It won't undo the vast transfer of land to haole (mainland) interests which foreshadowed the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kindom. It will not bring justice to Hawaii.

The ancient science of astronomy has become a scapegoat for the historic wrongs done to Hawaiians. Astronomy did not bring guns, spread disease, trample religion and custom, acquire land, or overthrow a nation. Plantation agriculture, the military, and commercial tourism have wrought vast changes in Hawaii, and very seldom for the benefit of those who lived here. Are these not more important than "pimples" on a mountain as great as Maura Kea?

Most of all, I worry that a shared reverence for nature won't be enough to resolve our differences; somehow, we must do better if we hope to survive.
Bjhlodnicki (Indianapolis)
I appreciate your comment.
But I have to wonder when this revelation dawned on the TMT planners and astronomers.
Apparently, they had already demonstrated their disrespect for Mauna Kea by trashing it and their disrespect for the indigenous Hawaiians by trying to bypass their agreement to the expansion.
A. M. Payne (Chicago)
"Resplendent in a tapa cloth, beads, a red loin cloth . . . ."

I stopped reading after, "loin cloth." I immediately thought, "Isn't that just like an Hawaiian? Brings a loin cloth to a gun fight."

The Telescope will be built.
David Currier (Pahoa, HI)
I visited the summit of Mauna Kea for my first time on Wednesday. I've always supported TMT. After my visit I had the sense, the feeling, that the ancient Hawaiians who sailed here from the areas around Tahiti by following the stars would be proud to build the TMT.
Dorothy (Kaneohe, Hawaii)
If it is decided to proceed with the telescope. I can only hope that the protesters will not disrespect the mountain as they did during the last attempt to go forward with the telescope. Newscasts during their protests showed trash strewn all about. And, according to news reports, protesters urinated and defected at will. The mountain's environment is fragile. Let the protesters respect it.
HKS (Houston)
If you really want an optimal, unobstructed view of the cosmos, you should build the telescope on the Moon. With the psssible exception of The Tranquility Base landing site, there are no sacred areas and no indigenous people to worry about. We should have had a base there thirty years ago.
Charles W. (NJ)
"We should have had a base there thirty years ago."

If the US had followed a step by step approach to a lunar colony we would have had one by now. Instead of a one shot trip to the moon and back we should have established space stations in both earth and lunar orbit with specialized ships for earth to earth orbit, earth orbit to lunar orbit and lunar orbit to the moon.
S (NJ)
Why not retire and demolish one or several of the older telescopes and build the TMT there? Environmental and sovereignty protestors would protect the untouched land, and the astronomical community would have access to this unique site.
ernieh1 (Queens, NY)
As someone who was born in Hawaii, served in the Armed Forces, and now lives in New York, I am shocked at the degree of explicit and subliminal racism and white colonialism that a lot of these comments contain.

It is as if some people cannot offer whatever reasonable arguments they have without also conveying the very kinds of colonial attitudes that Hawaiians had to deal with throughout its pre- and post-annexation history.

Since the end of World War II, Hawaii has experienced an alarming degree of the second wave of "colonialism" in the form of affluent white people who made their fortunes elsewhere, but have decided that Hawaii would be a nice place to retire. For local people, this is a mixed bag, as even as these affluent folks spend money in the local economy, they also cause a gradual and steady erosion of what Hawaiians think of as their traditional and local culture, not to mention buying up all the prime real estate.

Hawaii is not unique in this respect as there are places in the Mainland where the Native Americans feel the same kind of cultural erosion taking place.

If you think the issue of the TMT is strictly and only about the struggle between the needs and ambitions of science versus the intransigence of a small minority of ethnic Hawaiians, think again. All these things I just related are part of the whole context that surrounds this issue of the telescope. It is nowhere as simple and one-dimensional as a lot of these comments imply.
Bjhlodnicki (Indianapolis)
Bravo!
SMedeiros (San Francisco)
For God's sake, listen to the Hawaiians for once. They've been robbed of their sovereignty and treated with overwhelming disrespect from the moment Cook made landfall. Quit swarming over their islands. Just listen and leave them alone.
CNNNNC (CT)
Robbed of their sovereignty, invaded and dispected by foreigners. Sounds like a Trump speech
MS (NYC)
Trump would never speak up on behalf of the native Hawaiians. He's only interested(for his own personal profit, of course) if the down-trodden were white men.
NYC10036 (NYC)
I have traveled the world and one of the most awe inspiring locations I have ever been to was Mauna Kea, having attended one of their nightly "Stargazing Party" which is open to the public. To see the surface of the moon, the rings around Saturn (among many other things) through their small telescopes in the frigid mountain-high darkness surrounded by what seemed like an infinite number of stars was beyond amazing. A truly unique place - I hope they are able to work something out as it would be a shame to prevent scientific access to one of the greatest places for discovery and exploration.
Erik Van Dort (San Diego, California)
The entire planet is a sacred place. That does not entitle anyone declaring parts of it as sacred to them to territorial claims. That applies to Israeli citizens as well as native American Indians, unless they cease to be part of the larger nation they inhabit.
Greenfield (New York)
If the mountain is sacred, so are the stars. What more beautiful place to closer connect the two? It's not like someone is putting up a zip line. To me, things like the TMT or the Hadron collider are not symbols of exploitation or trampling on sentiments. Still, if most native Hawaiians don't share this view, you can't strong arm them. I wonder though if this conflict is not a proxy for some desire to gain independence or at least semi-autonomy from the US.
Alex (Moriches)
It's clear from the article that the people of Hawaii were open to the construction of previous telescopes in their sacred ground. So the real problem there is they feel disrespected. They haven't benefited and now feel unfairly depicted as a backwards superstitious people. But the issue is they are not being heard. I think we should step back and recognize a few things.

Their culture has been there for tens of thousands of years. They achieved sustainability and lived in equilibrium as part of their environment. We have a lot to learn from their ways before we can declare our western way of living something that will endure the test of time as their culture has.

We also have to recognize that culture is a social construct. Building telescopes is a consequence of the pursue of knowledge that is also a social construct, a kind of collective illusion of progress. In the past, native Americans were the ones suffering from the concepts of progress brought by the Europeans to this country. I think it's time we learned the lesson that cultures should be respected, but we can only do that if we recognize our own culture is a social construct coming from a historical process, and hence is somewhat arbitrary (even science).

Science is also a way to connect with our ancestors, by adopting the scientific method. If our ways are so good, we should be able to convince others, in the best of scientific tradition. And be open to be convinced otherwise. They are our kin. Stars are not.
Hawaiino (Hawaii)
"...culture has been there for tens of thousands of years..."

Uhhhh, no. At Cooks contact they were still essentially a Stone Age culture with no written history, however I ral traditions, and a bit of archeological research, puts Polynesian colonization at app. 1,400 years prior. First the Marquesans. .Ever hear of menehunes? A relative paucity of resources likely led to physical stunting, whether due to inbreeding or malnutrition. The invading Tahitians then took full advantage and enslaved the physically inferior survivors of the earlier settlers. Their culture was extremely hierarchical and was similar to a western serf or slave culture.

Hawaii was not the paradise most imagine, by any stretch of the imagination. And certainly not a humanist culture to be celebrated or wish to return to.
MKQ (.)
"Their culture has been there for tens of thousands of years."

Much less than that. The earliest age estimate for the settlement of Hawaii is about 800 years ago.[1]

"They are our kin. Stars are not."

All matter in the solar system was created in supernovas, so stars are indeed our "kin".[2]

[1] High-precision radiocarbon dating shows recent and rapid initial human colonization of East Polynesia
by Wilmshurst, et al.
PNAS
November 22, 2010

[2] The details are complex. See:

The Cradle of the Solar System
by Hester, et al.
Science
21 May 2004

2016-10-04 05:39:35 UTC
Tom (Honolulu)
The native Hawaiian claim of sacredness of the mountain is pure baloney.
The dispute is about money. And money only. It was never sacred before but in the last few years most developments are opposed do to the "sacredness of the land". The $2,000,000 in rent paid to the State is what is not said nor who ( other then the State of Hawaii and the University System ) should receive benefits. The majority of the people in Hawaii favor the telescope and what is not said is that a majority of Hawaiian favor the telescope. Unfortunately a small minority has used the courts to try to stop the telescope and some very bad judicial appointments from the previous governor has catered to the protestors.
Ray Russ (Palo Alto, CA)
The mast photo for the article shows a spectacular sky that would be absolutely impossible for anyone living in Hawaii - or elsewhere - to witness were it not for the the combined STEM based applications, computing processing and hard science that give the rest of our species yet another glimpse into the astronomical abyss that hints at our actual creation.

Where were these protestors when the white beaches of Waikiki, Hapuna, Punaluu and other island landmarks were being marred and bulldozed by indifferent real estate developers during the tragic developmental history of the islands?

Sorry, but this mainland haole casts his sentiments in favor of scientific discovery at the relatively small expense and marginal disruption of a (seemingly) inaccessible mountain peak that only a few appear to find issue with.
RajeevA (Phoenix)
In our lifetimes, we have an extremely small temporal window into the universe. If I had died last year, I would never have known about the music of gravitational waves emanating from the merger of two black holes. I look at the amazing photos taken by the Hubble telescope and consider myself so lucky to be able to contemplate the astounding beauty of the universe. To my Hawaiian friends, I would like so say, respectfully, that our sojourn in this universe is as fleeting as a meteor's in the night sky. Let's build the telescope together, giving proper respect to the sacred site, so that we can experience as much of the glory of the universe as possible, before we turn into stardust again.
Kenneth Ranson (Salt Lake City)
"On its spare, merciless summit, craters and cinder cones of indefinable age"

The craters and cinder cones currently exposed on the summit of Mauna Kea are from the hawaiitic substage and erupted between 65,000 and 4,000 years before present.
http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1557/report.pdf

Just because you don't know something, and are too lazy to look it up, doesn't mean it is unknown.
Matthew (Cedar City)
Your attempt to shame the author loses gusto when you attach a 143 page study of the Mauna Kea Volcano. Not to mention, the quote you cite uses the term "indefinable," not "unknown." So, how old are these ambiguous cinder cones, 65,000 years old, or 4,000 years old? Or how about those craters? Or could this passage, using perfectly acceptable terminology, have been an attempt to create a mood, a moment and an image for those of us who have not scaled Mauna Kea ourselves, or perhaps do not make a habit of deciphering academic papers?!
MKQ (.)
Matthew: 'Not to mention, the quote you cite uses the term "indefinable," not "unknown."'

The stratigraphic units for Mauna Kea are indeed DEFINED and DATED in the paper cited by Kenneth. See, for example, Figures 7 and 8.

Matthew: "... for those of us who ... do not make a habit of deciphering academic papers?!"

OK, if you want the lay person's summary: Mauna Kea is MUCH older than the occupation of the island by humans. The authors say "we estimate that Mauna Kea volcanism began about 1 Ma." (See page 1. "Ma" means "one million years ago")
Benjamin (Big Island, HI)
Fact check on the opening line:'Little lives up here except whispering hopes and a little bug called Wekiu.' An internet search of Mauna Kea ecosystem reveals unique 'Aeolian' ecosystems on high altitude volcanic summits. These are complex ecosystems with endemic species built on scavengers that feed on organisms blown up from lower elevations. There are some 'outlier among the genus' inhabitants including a carnivorous caterpillar. The biggest threat is introduced species like the Argentine ant that could devastate the whole ecosystem (where Argentine ants exist the wealth of native Aeolian creatures drops to near zero). Instead of carefully controlled telescopes the summit is much more imperiled by increasing visitor count to the summit as well as residents arriving in huge pickup truck rallies on rare 'snow' days. Public and commercial vehicles are not tightly controlled and have minimal inspections. Truly protecting Mauna Kea's summit from an ecosystem perspective means much more funding for research/resource management similar to a National Park (which protects Haleakala's Aeolian ecosystem on Maui). The astronomy observatories have been collaboratively providing a large amount of funding for Office of Mauna Kea Management, but budget is focused on managing people and astronomy education. But without the telescope funding, this ecosystem would receive even less attention only diluted care of Department of Land and Natural Resources amid many missions and lands.
Tom (Honolulu)
Don't listen to the malcontents who have protested the TMT telescope. Mauna Kea is about as sacred as my rear end. This was and is about paying off some people who figure that they are entitled to some or all of the rent being paid.. The $2,000,000 rent is not going to them but to the State and the University. There is an element of racism as there are no Hawaiian astronomers. The land belongs to the State and there is no doubt about that. But for politically correct reasons the State has coddled this group. And the majority of the State and the majority of Hawaiian are for the building of the TMT. And that is a fact.
Erica (Honolulu)
It may not have been accurate, but there was a lot of noise on social media about the $1 (one dollar) lease rent, and why shouldn't the Native Hawaiian community see that as a slap in the face?

Through OHA, the Native Hawaiian community receives at least one-fifth of the revenues generated by the ceded lands since the Statehood Act of 1959 designated them for:
1. Support of public education
2. Betterment of the conditions of native Hawaiians as defined in the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 (The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act 1920 did not exist in 1893)
3. Development of farm and home ownership
4. Public improvements
5. Provision of lands for public use

If OHA doesn't get compensation for the use of the mountain, that's less money for housing support, educational grants, obesity prevention, etc. Hawaii is a much more expensive place to live than it used to be, and these programs are important.
Jim (Phoenix)
This is a movement that takes its cue from other Native America sovereignty movements, eg, blocking the Dakota Access Pipeline, protesting the 202 extension in Phoenix, rebranding Halloween (the Celts Samain) as Dia de Muertos. Protecting sacred sights hasn't stopped Native Americans from building casinos, though, and not surprisingly casinos are near the protests in Arizona and South Dakota. Once there is "sovereignty," casinos will come to Hawaii.
David (Gambrills, MD)
This should be simple enough. Let the natives prove in court that their religious superstitions are true. They have no right to block human progress over susperstitions.
Robert Levine (Malvern, PA)
When the greatest navigator and map maker of the age, Captain James Cook, set foot on the shores of Hawaii in 1779, the natives hit him over the head with a club and put him in a pot for dinner. So much for for cultural relativism. I have no prejudice in favor of one religious belief over another, be they the Abrahamic, Buddhism, Hinduism, or animism, I don't think any religious cant should interrupt scientific progress. One need not ignore the subjugation and displacement of the native peoples who encounter more technically advanced civilizations- some will react as the Japanese did when Admiral Perry sailed uninvited into Tokyo Bay and turned his ships' cannons landward; fifty years later, the Japanese fleet annihilated a powerful Russian squadron off the Tsushima straits. The native Hawaiians, or the other Polynesians, had no such advanced civilization or response as did the Japanese, and the sad history since Westerners landed on their shores was inevitable. We can't make amends by stopping a telescope.
Tom Andersen (Ontario, Canada)
All land is sacred. The places near where we live need not be any less sacred than uninhabited mountain tops, yet they are host to useless eyesores such as wind turbines and billboards. Why stop a small (relative to a wind turbine) building on a remote mountain top when there are actual problems with land degradation in more lush areas of the island?

The 2 billion dollars that Hawaiians will pay out to the scientists to build their telescope somewhere else will come out of tax payers in the state. The loss of good faith that the TMT telescope halt brings will cost many billions more in lost opportunities. Who in their right mind would spend a billion to update a tourist destination or office building when building permits are worthless?
Jaurl (US)
Hmmm. A site with nearly unparalleled scientific value that could host a facility that will expand the horizons of humanity and inspire many millions. The alternative; mumbo-jumbo that a few thousand people at most feel is more important.
Mason (West)
Where do they get over a billion dollars from? Taxpayers?
Tom Andersen (Ontario, Canada)
If the scope does not get built they will sue and get another billion from the state of Hawaii. The first billion came from public and private money from around the world.
richard (thailand)
Go to Chile. Put it with the other two. This is about money. It always is.
Tom (Honolulu)
That it is....its all about why the Hawaiians aren't getting paid.
24b4Jeff (Expat)
As a scientist with a keen interest in astrophysics and cosmology, my thought is: build the telescope elsewhere. There is an excellent site available in Mexico, that will offer not only equivalent seeing but also better coverage of t he sky. And I am sure the Mexican government would be happy to contribute to the project to advance science in their country. Eventually perhaps the other telescopes on the mountain can be dismantled and moved to Mexico too. Then the locals can have their holy mountain back.

One less reason for me to go to Hawaii.
Waimea (Waimea, HI)
Great idea! Take all the telescopes, Keck scientists and CFH scientists to Mexico. They contribute absolutely NOTHING to the community they live in. Have fun in Mexico and glad you won't be visiting Hawaii.
ernieh1 (Queens, NY)
Promise?
MRod (Corvallis, OR)
It is exciting to imagine this a cooperative project between native Hawaiians and scientists. The architecture of the telescope could incorporate native Hawaiian culture, a visitor center could tell a seamless story of native Hawaiian legends related to their astronomical observations and navigation by star to the discoveries made about the universe through the use of Manua Kea's observatories.

For that to happen, I agree that some humility is in order by the scientists who have used the top of Manua Kea without much consideration for the native Hawaiians who preceded them. But I also think the some humility on the part of native Hawaiians is in order. Yes, they were the first humans to colonize Hawaii but certainly not the first beings. Their colonization resulted in the extinction of many species, so their hands are hardly clean with regard to their historical treatment of the environment. One would hope native Hawaiians are both thrilled and humbled by the story of the cosmos told by modern science and would find some way to accommodate the continuation of that story - even take pride in being a part of it.
MKQ (.)
"The architecture of the telescope could incorporate native Hawaiian culture, ..."

Could you be more specific?
Swannie (Honolulu, HI)
If I might ask a question without stepping on too many tender toes; how do hundreds of citizens camp out up there at 8000 feet for weeks and months. What, no job? Nice work if you can get it, or else make sure the welfare check comes into the bank on time.
MKQ (.)
The article is vague about whether there are currently any on-site protesters, but construction was halted when the building permit was revoked:

"On Dec. 2 [2015], the Hawaiian Supreme Court revoked the telescope building permit ..."
Erica (Honolulu)
http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/28836021/exclusive-mauna-kea-protest-...

They were supported by donors, the most prominent of whom was Princess Abigail Kawananakoa.
PAN (NC)
“colonial violence" That seems a stretch!

I would have thought the Hawaiians would be proud to have this amazing peaceful instrument, that would push knowledge and human awareness beyond what we know now, associated with their sacred mountain. A mountain that is, in a way, sacred to astronomers too. Astronomer's are all too aware of the environment they inhabit that protects them from the hostility of space they study. This should translate to respectful care of the sacred mountain they depend on.

The TMT structure - dome - looks quite beautiful too, that shows respect to the site it is destined for. Not just an industrial eye-sore.

I hope the parties will come to a mutual understanding and cooperate on humankind's quest for knowledge while demonstrating respect for a unique place on Earth.
Tim B (Seattle)
Spiritual practices, beliefs and traditions have been with humanity at least since the first majestic paintings of animals appeared on cave walls over 30,000 years ago, paintings which continue to inspire most of us to the present day. The innocence and sincerity of these first artistic efforts showed mankind in his interaction with what he considered most sacred and admired, the prowess and beauty of animal life in its most pristine environment.

Indigenous people the world over, those who have inhabited land and island often for millennia, intuitively sense this sacred connection and reverence to nature, our mother.

I am heartened by those native people who wish to honor and revere traditions and connections to the land despite what others may wish to impose on them.
Dr Dawn (New York)
There are already observatories on the mountain, why can't those be used to look at the heavens. Oh that's right, the new one has to be BIGGER or more advanced than those used already. Really? Do we need that, spend the mega millions on something useful-perhaps better schools or better food, better politics?? Honor the natives and their mountain- haven't the Hawaiians suffered enough at the hands of the white man stealing their land for money and profit. Sugar companies and pineapple (Dole) literally took the islands from the Hawaiians for their personal financial gain. Give it up and leave the Hawaiians alone.
PAN (NC)
I prefer the mega millions you speak of to go to BIGGER and more advanced scientific instruments - that by being bigger and more advanced expand our knowledge and awareness in our little minds. Otherwise, the mega millions could have gone to military spending, global destructive investments or simply squandered by the Trumps of the world to get a pass on paying taxes.

The mega millions are already being squandered by peoples of all races and ethnicities that could be better used for better schools, better food and ... better politics. Not sure about the last one.

Bringing up history to maintain grudges will leave you where the the so called Holy Land is after millenia - a humanitarian mess. "... leave the Hawaiians alone." Do you speak for all of them?
Shane (Marin County, CA)
Hawaii is not a "colony." It is a state, something the vast majority of its people voted for in 1959. The sovereignty movement can try again and again to invalidate that vote but the fact remains that it was legally binding. You also need to look with a jaundiced eye at any movement that proclaims, right out of the gate, that it fully intends to disenfranchise large numbers of those who fall under its rule in the case it takes power.
Constance Hale (San Francisco)
This sentence, which I see is being used in places as a teaser, misses the point: "But to its opponents, the telescope would be yet another eyesore despoiling an ancient sacred landscape, a gigantic 18-story colossus joining the 13 telescopes already on Mauna Kea." The problem is so much bigger, and deeper, than telescopes creating an "eyesore." The original name of the mountain, Mauna a Wākea (meaning “Mountain Child of Sky-Father Wākea”) gives one hint of the volcano's centrality to the ancient Hawaiian belief system. And the fact, mentioned later in the piece, that the mountain was part of crown lands "ceded" to the U.S., or "stolen from" Hawaiians, or "occupied by" the U.S. depending on your POV, speaks to another facet of the struggle over it.
VJR (North America)
Between Native Americans being upset with the pipeline and now this, I am reminded of this scene from Avatar in which Parker Selfridge is exasperated with all of the delays due to the native Na'vi:

Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver):
Those trees were sacred to the Omaticaya in a way you can't imagine.
Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi):
You know what? You throw a stick in the air around here it falls on some sacred fern, for Christ's sake!

As a physicist who minored in astronomy, I am for the advancement of science. However, this science is not urgent and can be done better in space in the future. Mauna Kea may be among the best locations on Earth for this telescope, but, really, it's not necessary.
bharmonbriggs (new hampshire)
Some time ago I read another story about the native resistance to the new, very large telescope. That article said that the anti-telescope group would accept a new telescope IF some number of the existing telescopes were removed. It said that the pro-telescope people rejected this compromise. I'm surprised there is no word of that issue in this article.
Erica (Honolulu)
Actually, the governor announced major changes (i.e., some of the other telescopes will be demolished early, that access to the summit be controlled by a Native Hawaiian entity, and Native Hawaiian students be given admittance and scholarships to study astronomy, etc) but in parallel, the courts invalidated the building permit. It's not clear that it would have been enough to stop the roadblocks and protests, but yes, it was attempted.

http://westhawaiitoday.com/news/local-news/ige-lays-out-massive-changes-...
http://www.bigislandvideonews.com/2015/05/31/mauna-kea-telescope-moves-f...
Terry Goldman (Los Alamos, NM)
Um, no earthquakes, no fissures, no new lava flows -- no resurgence of the volcano. Looks like the gods are quite happy with enhancing the link between earth and sky with telescopes -- what could be better? Alternative: There are a lot of valuable heavy minerals brought up from deep in the earth by the volcano. To heck with pointy-headed science; let's start a mining corporation to exploit the location the way it should be!
JO (Midwest To NYC)
Who is "let's"?

Your tone-deafness is amazing, though not surprising given your current location.
SB (San Francisco)
"Edward Stone, a Caltech professor and vice president of the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory, the group that will build the telescope, set April 2018 as the deadline for beginning construction. Depending on how it goes in Hawaii or elsewhere, the telescope could be ready sometime in the last half of the next decade.

“We need to start building this thing somewhere,” he said."

Did he elaborate on WHY we need to start building this thing somewhere? Why by 2018? Big Astronomy looks across millions of light years of space, and back millions of years in time; 2 years is nothing. Why does this need to be built NOW? Is the universe coming to an end or something?

Is this fellow and his group worried that some other group of prominent astronomers will beat them to it, thus deflating his ego and grant prospects? What discoveries will be made with this telescope that can't possibly wait a few years? What tragedies will ensue if those discoveries aren't made ASAP - other than the tragedy of Dr. Stone's career being slightly less fabulous?
PAN (NC)
The commitment of this kind of money and escalating costs over time is the reason for the deadline. I would not donate tens of millions on a project that is simply left in indefinite limbo - would you?

Besides, given that we will not live millions of years, some of us want to still be alive to enjoy any new discoveries the TMT is likely to bring to all of us.

The sooner the better!
William Davis (West Orange)
I would think that the construction of a telescope on a sacred site would be the ultimate way of honoring the ancestors. well we cannot see into the spirit world, this amazing device will reveal the mysteries of our own world, and bring us closer to an understanding of the total universe.
SB (San Francisco)
It could be a good way of honoring the ancestors, but that would require:
- Cultural sensitivity, which seems to be lacking, and
- Not making a huge mess, which the builders and managers of the telescope farm have been pretty bad about thus far.
Anyone's ancestors, Hawaiian or not, would be in favor of waiting a little longer and doing it right.
BeingWell (Palo Alto)
What if that optimal viewing site were another sacred site like Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, Mecca, Stonehenge, or Bodh Gaya? Would it be ok to honor a tech billionaire's geek dream to erect a 3-story telescope with a parking lot for hoards of tourists to tromp around on your sacred site? And what if these same "scientists" had already mismanaged and misused your sacred site?
Jeff (<br/>)
Yes and Scared ground should be used to observer the heavens Amen^
Tom F (Minnesota)
Reality check. The present population of Hawaiians arrived on the island only about 470 years, before the fist Caucasian, Cook, set foot on the island, according to current historical research. They appear to have obliterated the earlier Hawaiians. There is no ancient cultural ties on these islands.
Morris Lee (HI)
Hawaiians have been unfairly treated since Congress annexed the islands — illegally in the eyes of many — in 1898. I dont know anyone who would argue that it was not illegal. Living at the base of this great mountain I get to see these monstrosities every day.The science community is so entrenched in their own entitlement that they just cant seem to understand that enough is enough. Maybe if they removed some of the older telescopes and reduced their footprint they would find a common ground..but no they barrel ahead just like their forefathers with little regard for the sacred.Their head to far up their backsides congratulating themselves on their own achievements.
These scientists bring almost nothing to Hawaii. They import most their labor and send their children to prep-schools no one else can afford.Much like their colonist ancestors. Why dont they get it?
Veronica Ohara (Tokyo)
What about all the telescope folks who help the keiki, on their own & through the Akamai Workforce Initiative? These are students from the poorest sections of the Big Island who want a different level of STEM education not available through OHA scholarships. I've asked this question over & over, will the protesters replace TMT funding?
David (Geyer)
Being able to go from sea level to 14,000 feet in several hours makes Mauna Kea uniquely suited for the TMT. Surely there's enough room on this dormant volcano for religious worshippers and Big Science to exist peacefully. Can't we leave religious extremism in the middle east where it belongs?
David Rosen (Oakland, CA)
If one is inclined to consider certain things sacred then it seems the extraordinary images and insights gleaned by telescopes might qualify. Why not incorporate elements into the design of the facility that show respect and reverence for the feelings that Hawaiians have for the mountain. By so doing spiritual and scientific traditions would become connected, something that might in fact be a bit... sacred... in its own right.
Mmm (NYC)
One way to look at this: a project to build a telescope designed to give all of humanity a greater appreciation and understanding of the universe has been halted by a religious group who claims exclusive in-group ownership rights over a portion of our small planet -- are we doomed to forever squabble over our tiny bit of dirt and dust among the endless stars?

Another way: another special and unique branch of humanity and culture is being bulldozed over in the same of endless development and meretricious progress.

Really is a tough one. Couldn't they have tried to build a strip coal mine on top of the mountain to make this an easy call?
Me (Upstate)
I wonder how this would all pan out if the proposed location were on top of Mt. Rushmore.
Lee Harrison (Albany)
Fine by me.....
PAN (NC)
Mt. Rushmore was de-faced a while ago. A dome over one of the presidents could be made to look like a hat.
Tom Andersen (Ontario, Canada)
Mt Rushmore has cultural artefacts on it, whereas the uninhabitable summit of the mountain has zero. Moreover there is room on the summit for 50 Mt Rushmore cultural sculptures, while leaving room for a telescope.

Note the telescope has less visual impact than a single wind turbine, and is the life dream of many scientists, a life's job for dozens of locals and hundreds of jobs for more locals during construction.
Joe Sabin (Florida)
The fact this is being discussed and not just rubber stamped is a testament to how strong the ethnic/cultural value is in Hawaii.
David (Sammamish)
Every time I've been to Hawaii I've observed natives poaching sea turtles in the surf just past the "no poaching" signs. How much money will it take to change the native's mind about one more telescope? That's what this is about.
pg (San Jose)
What a terrible and narrow minded generalization. The reason there is such blind disrespect is because the loss of hawaiian culture and language. The history of land usage is Hawaii is an amazing and inspirational story of living in balance and harmony with the land. All of that was lost with the greed driven white culture that appropriated the islands and disrupted the cultural foundations that would never have allowed such behavior to occur. The lens of greed is the one that white culture imposed here.
Tom Andersen (Ontario, Canada)
The actual fact is of course that native peoples have never by any researcher found to care much about the environment that they lived in, 'naturally'. Their numbers after all were controlled by '100% natural' starvation, murder, war and disease.

These all natural factors left populations low enough to live off the land, but high enough to wipe out species like the sabre toothed tiger, mastodons, flightless birds and lots more.
Ollie (Missouri)
Their "cultural and historical background" is essentially Stone Age savagery. These people are being overtaken by Western civilization. They are welcome to join it, but if they insist on fighting it, they will surely lose.
MKQ (.)
Please define "Stone Age savagery" and cite a reliable source for your definition.
Veronica Ohara (Tokyo)
We aren't "Stone Age" savages, clearly you are mistaken. We are scientists, lawyers, farmers, teachers, not savages.
MKQ (.)
Times: 'Telescopes on a sacred mountain constitute a form of “colonial violence,” in the words of J. Kehaulani Kauanui, an anthropologist at Wesleyan University.'

She has a point when it comes to the names of the telescopes. Not one of the telescopes on Mauna Kea has an native Hawaiian name:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mauna_Kea_Observatories#Telescopes
PAN (NC)
Native Hawaiian names for each observatory is a good idea.

At least one has a Japanese name - Subaru. So much for Hawaiians being savaged exclusively by the Western World.
Joe Brown (New York)
I am siding with the natives. I have seen reams of rationalizations from all sources that give great reasons for ignoring the rights of indigenous people, many of which you will find in these comments. In fact this episode is just another example of might claims right. It has always been, and always will be if the deciders are of largely european descent and the losers are not.
Veronica Ohara (Tokyo)
You need to know Kanaka Maoli support TMT but the author was remiss and did not interview any of us.
Joe Brown (New York)
I did know about the support of those you mentioned. I see it as the Stockholm syndrome where the servants support their masters. I an Cherokee and I want all my land back and the europeans gone. Then I will talk about telescopes.
A Goldstein (Portland)
Observing the heavens in the way it can be done only in places and only with the equipment in Hawaii, is a transcendent experience. Your sense of being and knowing is born or reborn. It is an experience no planetarium can replicate. The first image in Mr. Overbye's article is in itself inspirational. The graininess in the sky isn't noise, it's reality.
C. W. (<br/>)
I was fortunate to visit The Big Island last year. Like many tourists, my plan was to visit the summit one night during the trip to stargaze. This all changed after a few days on the island when I drove from Kona to Hilo along Saddle Road. It was one of the most awe-inspiring and humbling experiences amid nature I've ever had. It left me with no doubt of the land's sacredness. At the base of Mauna Kea, a strong feeling swept over me that I should not ascend. That I wasn't supposed to ascend, more specifically. So, I didn't. I'm not superstitious. I have no direct connection to Hawaiian culture, virtually no knowledge of its history or customs, and my experience there was remarkable. I understand both sides of this battle, and however it turns out, one thing is certain: Mauna Kea must be protected.
Veronica Ohara (Tokyo)
Science & culture can and do exist in the Hawaiian culture. But the protesters interviewed in this article are just a small fraction of the Hawaiian people.
GaryB (SiValley)
There should be no controversy. Modern science vs stone gods. If the stone got is strong and really minds the telescope, one brief eruption will make the whole mountain wild again. If not, not.
wlieu (dallas)
Meanwhile in Chile, where the ESO builds their giant telescopes during the past few decades, dozens and dozens of new Chilean PhDs have since been joining the ranks of, and contributing to, the world's astronomical community.
David B. (San Francisco)
For me, as someone who has lived in the islands, studied and taught the human history of Hawaii and Polynesia, and is married to a native of the Big Island, this protest smacks to me of one of the unexpected and less desirable effects of social media. Many who we see protesting this fall into the category of “but for Facebook (and emotionally leading, ‘trending’ posts), would not have cared, nor known, about this topic”.

Ancient Hawaiians were the earth’s consummate astronomers, with skills exceeding those of Captain Cook and his crew when they arrived here. The ~1500 foot summit of Kahoolawe, more easily accessible before gasoline made easy work of a 14,000 ft summit, was an observatory of choice for pre-contact Hawaii.

Many of the people whom I consider to be the the true living stewards of the Hawaiian cultural renaissance since it's rise in the early 1970’s, are for this project, and are proud of scientific achievement, Nainoa Thompson included.

Of those I know in that movement, I know nobody, including old-timers in Waimea, who has seen or participated in a cultural exercise at the summit of Mauna Kea, prior to this protest movement gaining steam.

Scientific knowledge is power and brings hard-to-deny benefit to the communities that have it. Some of those positive influences have been on display in Waimea for some time. The same could not be said, universally, of all the military bases, or steady growth of ticky-tacky subdivisions for mainlanders and snowbirds…
Diana Lee (San Francisco)
Has Nainoa stated that? I wondered - he would have a lot of credibility and influence.
ak bronisas (west indies)
David......ALL the Hawaiians and their descendants are the inheritors, sustainers,and preservers of Hawaiian culture not just the group that you think is representative(an improbable assumption) unless you know ALL the Hawaiians and their cultural practices ..........because you or the group you know didnt know of any ceremonies on Moana Kea.......doesnt mean they did not occur but simply that you werent invited..........and as for "science is power"true enough, when its used for supporting life but it should be a humbling experience when one discovers but one square in the immeasurable web of the universe,not a power trip........the young Hawaiian,who disrupted the groundbreaking for the superscope,said it best "why are you looking up at the stars,when you are destroying the earth under your feet"......HE IS HAWAIIAN CULTURE speaking !
Erica (Honolulu)
Cultural exercises at the summit may not be a long-standing practice, but I believe that the placement of this telescope, slightly away from the others, was specifically to prevent it from being visible from the summit. In other words, I think the telescope team was trying to be respectful of spiritual uses of the mountain, even if the construction site was slightly more inconvenient.
Veronica Ohara (Tokyo)
Sadly the author and NYT did not even bother to interview Native Hawaiians, Kanaka Maoli who support this project, but perhaps it's no surprise. After all we don't drape ourselves in the Hawaiian Flag nor impede education and progress for the poorest Native Hawaiian children, we aren't colorful enough for anyone from the NYT to bother with. Here's a link that indicates how many of us support TMT. http://www.maunakeaandtmt.org/community-support/ I am asking those of you who read this article to support the Native Hawaiians who need the STEM education support to pursuit our dreams. The cost of not building TMT is great because it means the poorest of us cannot get funding for STEM education and STEM career training. TMT offers us this support with the Think Fund and the Akamai Workforce Initiative. http://www.maunakeaandtmt.org/investing-in-hawaii/programs-supported-by-... People who read this article need to understand though the author addresses the claims of colonialism and sovereignty he did not note this issue was a clever conflation by certain powerful people in the Richard Law School at the University of Manoa. It serves no purpose but to alienate Hawaiians from each other, those of us like me with the blood of the ancient voyagers in my veins and those who are here for generations. They are Native Hawaiians as well. The aspects of our culture are complicated and we are tired of it being misrepresented by those who don't understand the issues.
David B. (San Francisco)
This comment should be an NYT pick and get the visibility it deserves (offers more perspective than my "outsider's" remarks...)
Kathy (Hawaii)
Right on sistah!
Diana Lee (San Francisco)
I was born and grew up in Honolulu. I am in favor of the telescope and surveys show that most people in Hawaii do. There's no question that the Hawaiians have legitimate grievances, but in my view, I'd like to see Hawaii diversify its income - science instead of more tourism! I wish the Hawaiians would protest the walls of concrete hotel and condominium towers. And I agree that, in the same spirit as Hokulea, astronomy is perfectly appropriate for Hawaii.
Veronica Ohara (Tokyo)
Agreed, that's all there is, sadly it's our number one industry. The carbon imprint on the islands is hard to bear. We need an industry that pays a living wage & supports education in STEM fields. We all can't just continue to eek a life in tourism.
Miltzer (NJ)
It frustrates me that many seem to think that a telescope of this scale can be put anywhere. This is a major undertaking and will have tangible benefits to our understanding of the universe. The history of Hawaii is filled with unfortunate events but I don't believe that a NIMBY approach is in the best interest of anyone. The backlash that this telescope is facing seems entirely due to things that happened long in the past.
sucram65 (Oakland, CA)
Think about the implications of the sentence that follows:

"Hawiian by birth, American by force."

Now consider for a moment how you might feel in the same circumstances. These events may have happened long ago, but their impact does not necessarily lessen with time. Since the first missionaries arrived mainlanders have been taking what they want and dictating terms.

When I first went there 29 years ago while I was in the Navy none of these consideration crossed my mind. As I've continued to visit in the years since my perspective has certainly changed. From the excessive development to the overbearing military presence it kinda looks like an occupation.
Rowland (Ithaca, NY)
Should we never try to right the wrongs done against native peoples? Reading the 1993 Bill referenced in the article I was appalled to learn the history of US involvement in annexing the islands. Essentially this was a separate nation which we took over like the colonialists did in the US mainland. We should make it right by honoring the will of the local people native to the islands.
Tom Wattel (Seattle)
This isn't about superstition; it's about over-development. Try building the TMT on top of Yosemite's Half Dome to see that. Remove telescopes from the mountain that add up to the same or more bulk of the TMT, restoring the vacated land to a pristine state, and it's likely the TMT can be built without too much opposition.

Obviously there will be pushback when development occurs on a mountain that is not only sacred to many, but also a natural wonder. Even one telescope would be too much for Half Dome. How much is too much for Mauna Kea?
Diana Lee (San Francisco)
Removing some of the older telescopes is already part of the project.
JEG (New York, New York)
California flooded the Hetch Hetch - a valley supposedly as magnificent as Yosemite - to build a reservoir to provide power and water, so your argument is rather weak.
Diana Lee (San Francisco)
... and there was a big fight about it!
Donna Zuba (kennewick)
As I understand this (our last trip in summer of 2015) talking to some local people living in Waimea... it seems to me that IF those building the observatory would have included all parties that might be stake holders ....it's possible that the issues could have been addressed and the project moved forward. We had the opportunity to visit Mauna Kea and I agree with the other poster who said it is a magical place and the current observatories are a part of the magic.

And I agree with the poster who listed the real issues that Hawaii needs to be addressing. It can be a very complicated issue for a minority it seems.
Diana Lee (San Francisco)
There were years of public hearings and court proceeding - the Native Hawaiian only brought up the issue of sacredness after all of that had happened.
O Paco (Bergamo)
Yes, Please, block it, so that the project moves to the Canary Islands.... There, they will put a candle in the church for the Hawaian deities.....
HE (AT)
Where are the land and waters off of Hawaii NOT sacred? ALL of the aina and moana are sacred to the Hawaiians. So in theory if they succeed on top of the desolate summit of Mauna Kea, they could prevent any further development in Hawaii that they deem sacred. Which is basically all of the Hawaiian Islands.
Personally, I think they should try and recover the land leased for 100 years to the sugar companies by the Queen. That lease was up not too long ago and the sugar company just absconded it and is currently selling and developing those lands. That may be an easier, more profitable claim.
Also gaining Native American status would help their movement. I am so surprised Obama overlooked the Hawaiian ohanas in their quest for this. Auwe.
Veronica Ohara (Tokyo)
If TMT is built we can begin to move away from tourism. Hotels & stores are built on ground that was once held in reverence and kept for the Ali'i. Not all Hawaiians aspire to jobs in tourism but sadly it is the only industry. The sugar fields employed people and the closing of the last plantation on Maui was sad for many of us. That was a plantation that actually paid well, sugar was a way of life. The issues in Hawaii are complex but anything that takes away education from the poorest Hawaiian children is unacceptable by any standards. Many of us don't want the indigenous status, we are Kanaka Maoli, citizens of the 50th State. OHA sells land and avoids audit. DDHL sells land but the wait list for Hawaiian Homelands is long. None of the bodies that should be supporting Hawaiians have come through, especially when it comes to STEM education.
Mark (CT)
at under 14,000 feet Mauna Kea is not a particularly high mountain; Would the astronomers (and the money) be willing to consider 22,800 foot Aconcagua in Argentina? It's a long way from everything so light pollution wouldn't be a problem. It's just not quite as pleasant at the base on the your days off.
GaryB (SiValley)
Yeah, no one is going to be able to build a large facility at the top of a very steep 22,800' mountain covered in snow year round. Mauna has an inversion layer of air (the air temperature gets colder then warmer as you get to the top) making for clear weather most of the time. The whole top of the volcano will get cleared by an eruption in the next 100-500 years. Build now and let those stone gods decide when they don't need to see the stars anymore.
CW (UT)
That is not a realistic solution. Mauna Kea is no more than a couple of hours drive to two international airports located on the Big Island, served by domestic and international airlines. Power and other utilities already exist on the Big Island with a support infrastructure.
Cynic (Queens, NY)
The moisture in the air above Mauna Kea, keeps it still, improving imaging. The air above the Andes is very turbulent due to the mountain range. Astronomical "Seeing" is superior on Mauna Kea; that's why all the telescopes were built there. Telescopes cannot be picked and sited anywhere. The physics of what they observe are very sensitive to and designed for the environment in which they are located.
AAC (Alexandria, VA)
If Mauna Kea proves too controversial, they should learn their lesson and pick a new site that will not offend any religious sensibilities. How about razing the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and replacing it with the TMT? I'm sure nobody will mind.
Sue (Vancouver BC)
Why bother to make such an absurd comparison? Mauna Kea is a gargantuan volcano.
Kathy (Hawaii)
I lived in Hawaii for 35 years, am an attorney & was a "facilitator", hired to allow all sides to express & have recorded their opinions at many, controversial public hearings. [I have walked experts to their cars & I totally believe the "locals" acted well as described by the article.] The "aloha spirit" is so alive in Hawaii, no matter what.

As an attorney I represented multiple residents [& 1 of my land use cases took 7-8 years and did save a pristine area on Oahu from inappropriate development -- Heeia Kea.]

Based on this history, I want to thank you for one of the best written articles about a Hawaii dispute I have ever read. I especially appreciated how it explains so much, so briefly yet also so deeply about certain aspects of Hawaiian culture, most of beginning of the recent history of the Native Hawaiian movement and of course the details of the project. This is why I subscribe to the Times.

Personally I am very mixed about this. Wow- a huge building/telescope on a sacred & physically unique site which has been abused and mistreated versus an incredible and unique opportunity for many scientific discoveries.

I have been on that mountain and seen the night skies! It also is true that previous projects absolutely have not benefited residents of the island of Hawaii in any significant way.

Ultimately, I think the project won't get its permit or won't meet its 2018 deadline but I hope it happens elsewhere [& smarter.]
Mr Bretz (Florida)
Kathy, I live on the Big Island. You say " It also is true that previous projects absolutely have not benefited residents of the island of Hawaii in any significant way." You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. I know several people who work at the Keck, Canada France, etc who live and work in Waimea. Even the admin staff makes a good living. It is one of the best paying jobs on any of these islands. And we are talking several hundred employees and support staff. They have bought houses and spent money on this island. And some of them are native Hawaiians. The large support staff keeps the observatories running for the world class astronomers who visit. Many of the support staff have PhD's in astronomy, engineering, and computer science. Their presence, their community involvement, etc. have contributed greatly to this island. And during the construction of all previous telescopes, many well paying constructions jobs were created. All of that is significant.
Veronica Ohara (Tokyo)
I hope you are wrong. Why do take away education from the poorest of Hawaiians? The law school at UH has turned a blind eye to their professors who appear to spend state funds for their personal agendas. Who suffers for their arrogance? The children living on homestead land, who cannot afford university tuition. I've watched in amazement as the law school continues to conflate the issues and urges students to block every step from GMO, Superferry and now TMT. They expect the state to live in their exclusive vision of a kingdom. It's shameful to carry on in a fashion that takes from the weakest. But no surprise when it comes to the law, it's applied on a whim in Hawaii.
Mr Bretz (Florida)
Veronica makes some good points. Listen to her. Ignore the attorney, Kathy.
Todd Stuart (key west,fl)
It is amazing that the liberal elites in our country dismiss the concerns of major religions on any number of issues and often call those objecting to this dismissal bigots, homophobes or worse. But they bend over backwards to defend the concerns over so-called sacred grounds like this. How are religious concerns of of hundreds or thousand of people so much more important than those of tens of millions. And as an agnostic Jew I have no interest of anyone's religion dictating to society at large. But what's good for the goose has to be good for the gander.
JO (Midwest To NYC)
Then why not put the telescope on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem? or on Mt. Sinai?
Todd Stuart (key west,fl)
JO, thank you for your offensive and totally valueless contribution to this conversation. Still I will answer your question. I couldn't care less where they put a telescope as long as it is the best possible site for the purpose of advancing of our knowledge of the cosmos.
polymath (British Columbia)
Beautifully researched and written article!

(Though I'm still figuring out the meaning of pueo in the last paragraph. Owl? Ancestor spirit? Something else?)
polymath (British Columbia)
Owls, clearly. Gotta learn to read better.
Veronica Ohara (Tokyo)
Not well researched because the author failed to speak to Hawaiians who support the project. No different then their last attempt to cover TMT. It's clear that the author had his mind made up when he wrote it.
NYTReader (New York City)
This planet belongs to all of us. Figuring out who we are and our place in the much larger universe is an unsolvable quest for all of us. Only the mountain owns the place where it resides. Who owns the stars that could be seen from its top?
Nick Metrowsky (Longmont, Colorado)
This would be like putting a 30 meter telescope atop Ulruru (Ayer's Rock) in Asutralia. Or, building on the Indian Mounds in Ohio. Or, building one above the canyon housing Mrsa Verdi or, building over Inca ruins in Peru. All scared sites. I mean, Saudi Arabia is coming close to turning Mecca into Las Vegas east.

Don;t get me wrong, I enjoy astronomy and science. Exploring the universe, finding Earth like planets, etc. But, one should not destroy or impact a culture to do so.

A 30 meter telescope just does not belong on Mauna Kea. Nor atop any place where a people consider sacred to their culture.
GaryB (SiValley)
This is a few 1000 people who object. You could find that for any mountain. End of science, but we'll get some nifty stone piles maybe.
David B. (San Francisco)
No, it wouldn't be like burial mounds in Ohio, or Hopi Mesa dens. Hawaiian culture is alive, present, and spread across a lengthy island chain. It's not relegated to an historical gravesite, or homesite.

As analogies, Vegas and Mecca are also pretty far off.
Nick Metrowsky (Longmont, Colorado)
David B,

Look at the pictures of what the Saudis are doing to Mecca:

http://www.businessinsider.com/mecca-is-being-overhauled-and-people-are-...

The building with the clock tower is a luxury hotel. How about that nice shopping mall? And a lot of all the old homes, including the Prophet's House; destroyed in the name of "progress". By the eay, two years later it is even more changed, that the pictures shown.

This was in this newspaper a couple months ago:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/magazine/mecca-goes-mega.html?_r=0

Yes, both Hawaiian and Aboriginal cultures are alive, but like every where else where Anglo have colonized, and taken over, they do not care about the culture they are replacing. How about the American genocide called Territorial Expansion? Which is a code word fro Native American genocide. Ad fro the those Hopewell Burial Mounds, in Ohio, fortunately some were saved, but many were destroyed by deforestation and farming.
Mary Ann (Seattle)
I know little about indigenous Hawaiian culture, except that all Polynesians were consummate navigators, finding their way not only by stars, but the actual feel and sound of wave patterns and currents at sea. Observatories on Mauna Kea could be viewed as extensions of these ears and eyes on the universe.

This new project could be an opportunity to involve the indigenous community in ways that haven't been done before, not only with building and siting, but educational programs and etc. Running completely roughshod over native concerns is so 19th century. Engage the community. Sometimes it's not so much what you do, as how you do it. There's so much potential for win-win.
Jim Schlosser (Hawaii)
This telescope will benefit all mankind. Its construction will not desecrate the mountain or Hawaiian cultural heritage.
Harvey Liszt (Charlottesville, VA)
If the Native Hawaiians think they are being patronized by elitists at the TMT, they might be consoled by the extent of elitism that exists within the project itself, as described on the Moore Foundation website. Although participation is on a national basis for Canada, China, India and Japan, US involvement is limited to CalTech and the Univ. of California, and the University of Hawaii gets a cut on all telescopes on the mountain. A US astronomer at any other institution, by far the great majority, might well need a native guide to find her way to the telescope.
MKQ (.)
"... the extent of elitism that exists within the project itself ..."

Who will be given observing time on the TMT?
JavaJunkie (Left Coast, USA)
Give me a break!

This is nothing more than a thinly veiled extortion attempt by a small fringe group of "otherwise unemployable's" looking to have something to protest about and get paid off for doing it.

There is the real potential for that scientific instrument
(the 30M Scope) to make some truly amazing discoveries and for those discoveries to further unlock the secrets of the universe we all live in.

Superstitious 'MUMBO JUMBO" does not justify and should not stop the legitimate use of that land for the purpose of scientific discovery and exploration.

Let say Aloha to the made up from some grade "Z" Hollywood movie Witch Doctor "religious noise" and lets bring in the Earth Movers and Construction Crews and get on with it.

Here's the view the vast majority of the world wants
The 30 M Telescopes First Image
Big Al (Southwest)
Under the Federal legal system Native American tribes are considered "conquered nations" sovereign but ruled by their conquerors, the Congress and the Executive Branch. Surprisingly Hawaiian people have not even been granted the dignity of recognition as a Native American tribe. They are denied the protections in Federal law afforded to other native nations. I have no idea why...perhaps it's because of Hawaii's strategic location for national security purposes.
dogpatch (Frozen Tundra, MN)
Or they just forgot to do it.
Liz Morningstar (Boston)
One more of the paradoxes we encounter. Those on the left typically deride religiosity and poke fun at believers in 'the great spaghetti god in the sky', and yet they align behind Native Americans and Hawaiians who claim 'sacred ground'. Those on the right typically claim righteous belief in a higher being and an afterlife, and yet deride those same beliefs in more indigenous peoples. Like the leftist who fights capital punishment while supporting late term abortions, while their right-wing neighbor believes the opposite on both issues... if there is logic to all this, it seems fleeting.
Mikehawkslarge (San Francisco)
Liz,
The left only defend those whom they perceive they can exploit to gain a political benefit from. And exploit they will, promising the world to the exploited until they have served their purpose and are no longer useful to the cause.
Then they become expendable, are stabbed in the back, and thrown under the bus. It's the way the left has always operated, unfortunately the exploited never see it until it is too late and they have become the enemy.
augias84 (New York)
No, not all on the left. What are you basing that assertion on? Many on the left don't deride religiosity at all. Others poke fun at all religions alike.
This telescope is more of a cultural question, than a religious one. Nobody is saying that the gods might be angry, but rather it's about the native people feeling disrespected and wanting to protect their heritage.
Me (Upstate)
Sacred things are things cherished, without their having obvious utility.

It is sad that science is now all but inseparable from technology, and that corporate power so often influences the whole enterprise.
GaryB (SiValley)
Can you name the corporate power that is backing or will gain from a new telescope to do astronomy? This is about the human spirit/soul of humanity vs a small group who hold nationalists aspirations.
Mr Bretz (Florida)
The opposition to TMT is lead by a small group, compared to the entire Hawaiian population, of activists. The Sierra Club, native American, etc. have joined the cause. From my reading of the local papers, most of these people want Hawaii returned to them. It is a non-negotiable item. Preserving Mauna Kea is really secondary or serves as a lightning rod for that cause.

Their rationality is best summed up by the quote from the article: "“For what? For your greed to look into the sky?" That might show you how rational these people are.

And to show you how sacred the mountain is to most of the people, I was recently in a waiting room of a doctor's office in Kona. I heard an older "Hawaiian" couple discussing TMT. They were "Hawaiian" but clearly mixed with other Asian heritage. They were being somewhat vocal so I politely asked what was the name of the gods that the mountain was suppose to enshrine. I can't recall the names but have seen them in the paper. The couple had no clue. And they didn't practice Hawaiian religion. I heard them mention the local Congregational church they attended.

But, that being the case, if I were TMT, I would just find another place to build the telescope. Granted, that would take away many long term technological, well paying jobs on Hawaii island where most of the jobs are in the tourist(read minimum wage) industry. But after all the years of going through the process, I would just forget it. Take you high paying jobs else where.
J Clearfield (Brooklyn)
While billionaires are promising to provide refuge on Mars after they have finished exploiting and devastating the earth and all its treasures, science, development, capitalists continue to plumage and loot. Just as more than 100 tribes of Native Americans are currently attempting to stave off what they call the "black snake" of fracking, here Natives of Hawaii are attempting the same. They are calling babies born today the "Noah generation" because - quite possibly -- they will live to see only two remaining survivors of all variety of wild species on the planet -- let's stop that from happening. Stop destroying pristine places in the "name of science" or in the name of "jobs" the god almighty dollar. @350dot org @billmckibben @uwc_nyc @johannaclear
Anonymouse (Richmond VA)
I'm really getting tired of "sacred ground" being used as an excuse to stop anything a few members of a tribe or aboriginal group don't want. The whole thing is a lot of nonsense - no one is a "native" to any part of the earth except the part of Africa where our species evolved. Certainly we should recognize the human rights of "aboriginal" populations but that doesn't mean we need to bend over backwards to protect their ancient superstitions or ours. Once again more nonsense in the name of religion.
Jackie846 (Washington State)
You comment as though you think 'sacred ground' is just so much dirt. Not so. Every people, tribe, group, religion, or nation has 'sacred' somethings or someplaces. Jerusalem, Mecca, St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, Arlington Cemetary, Lincoln Memorial, Cahokia Mounds, Stonehenge, to name just a few. Whether it be lakes, mountains, springs, groves, graves, or manmade temples, shrines, monuments, or something other, Sacred is sacred. What it is that is 'worthy' of regarding with reverence and respect is not for outside interests to determine, imo.
Lee Harrison (Albany)
Personally I have no "sacred ground." I think the concept is ridiculous actually. Some places are more beautiful than others, some places are biologically much richer than others ... these are valuable attributes ... but sacred? No.

"Sacred" is just a way to claim you own it.
Kathy M (McLean, VA)
I have actually ventured up Mauna Kea to see the telescopes. It's awe inspiring up there -- if you can get to 13,000 feet. I see the telescopes as things of beauty and wonder not the scourge implied by the protestors. I do believe that construction should proceed on the new telescope, but I also believe that every measure should be taken so as to have as little impact as possible on the surrounding area, which is stark and beautiful and probably very susceptible to environmental damage much like Death Valley.

The telescope should be kept in the USA. Probably the only other possible location would be down in South America. That would be a shame.
24b4Jeff (Expat)
No, there is an excellent site available in Mexico. The significant advantage to having a balance in capabilities between the northern and southern hemispheres is that it provides complete sky coverage. In fact, the current family of telescopes on the sacred mountain includes one that has a duplicate at the ESO in Chile.
Lee Harrison (Albany)
No, there isn't an "excellent site in Mexico," not one anything comparable to Mauna Kea.
Moonlight Lady (Hilo, Hawaii)
The Mauna, as Mauna Kea is known by Hawaiians, is sacred; the ancient volcano has been the center of Polynesian culture — the umbilical cord connecting Earth and sky — seemingly forever, connecting Hawaiians to their earthly origins. In much the same way as the taro plant is considered all Hawaiians' Older Brother, Hawaiians believe that without The Mauna and Older Brother they would not be here, on these sacred islands, on this planet earth.
These beliefs may be superstitions to those who encounter it from the outside with a scientific point of view. But to Hawaiians who had been forbidden to practice their religion or even speak or write their own language for over forty years in hopes that the culture without language would simply fade away in two generations, their beliefs about their origins are real.
It is with pride that The Mauna is protected from those who have a history of desecrating it.
I am a native New Yorker who came to Hawaii forty years ago, and stayed. As a public school teacher in Hilo on the Island of Hawaii, also known as the Big Island, I worked closely with over 1500 students and their families for each of my 20 years at a local high school. I now understand Hawaiian culture and how closely intertwined it is with The Mauna and sea and the clouds and the stars and Older Brother taro, I saw its intelligence and why its symbols in the natural world must be preserved for the culture to thrive.
For this, I am opposed to the TMT.
John Brown (Idaho)
How long have native Hawaiians been in Hawaii ?
1500 years ?
How old is the Volcano ?
Tens of Millions of years ?
Were there any natives in Hawaii before the descendants of today's Hawaiians ?
Do they have any say in this dispute ?
John (Port of Spain)
There were menehune but they fled into the mountains when the larger people came to the islands.
John Brown (Idaho)
Well then,

if they existed,

don't they deserve a vote in this dispute ?
Scandinavian (Stockholm)
Just stop the occupation of Hawaii and return home yankee. Lets do the same with Guam as well and then you will finally live the way you preach. The overthrow of the legitime goverment is something we will remember as Imperial USA taking the land they want from others and still you have no shame to tell others not to do the same as you did yourself.
dogpatch (Frozen Tundra, MN)
As Henry the 2nd said in 'The Lion in Winter': "It's got my troops all over it; that makes it mine."
augias84 (New York)
oh, so according to you 20% of the population should just chase the other 80% out? Is that going to right the wrongs that the US committed in the 19th century?
Gil (Tampa)
Is this another broken treaty with native americans? We eurocentric people need some of your land; but you can keep your sacred places as long as the sky is blue and grass is green (or until we need your sacred land too). The sky quit being blue in this country a long time ago.
kamakele (kauai)
The U.S. overthrew the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893. It stole that nation's land including this summit. 100 years later in Public law 103-150 the US apologized. The Hawaiians would like to get control of their land back. This dispute is a part of a larger proxy - in which Hawaiians are demanding control over land that is rightfully theirs under international law.
dogpatch (Frozen Tundra, MN)
How do you define what a 'Hawaiian' is? Is it by a percentage of blood? Say 50% so a 49.9 is non-Hawaiian. You are in for a fight if you try to deny things to the actual majority of the population.

As another posted below, most Hawaiians are so mixed with Asian and other blood and have no traditions or know of them.
Leighton R Tseu (Waiau)
A Dog patch the Kingdom of Hawaiian considered all born in the Hawaiian nation were citizens of the Nation. Native Hawaiians are all citizens, native Hawaiian are the true blood, The capital "N" and the small "n" in written documents classified the difference Your western influence lies has caused damaged to many cultural people around the world. My children and grandchildren speaks fluent Hawaiian Language and they are less then 50%. The white man who illegal overthrow the Queen made the rule of 50% so their plan of genocide continue and all the Hawaiian Crown can be stolen.

People like you don't now the "truth" don't know the Hawaiian Culture, don't live it but you sure can throw your 2 cents with no knowledge.

Na Kupuna, a'oli western wahawaha!
JO (Midwest To NYC)
I can tell you've never lived in Hawai'i.
paul mountain (salisbury)
Oy. Our greed for knowledge is insatiable.
Nancy (San Diego)
The building and use of this telescope complex seems like a wonderful way to honor the sacredness of the location. It seems imminently possible for the two sides to compromise by making sure construction is done with as little disruption to the area as possible and with use being conducted with sensitivity to the beliefs of the native people. If the two sides talk about what's needed in an open-minded, objective way, rules to protect and honor the side could be accomplished. New discoveries coming from this observatory would be a marvelous gift from sublime location.
EldoRado (Tacoma,WA)
As someone who just moved back to the US mainland after living and working in Hawaii for eight years, I am having difficulty working up much anxiety about this particular issue. There are so many more pressing problems that need solutions in Hawaii.
1. Public education is among the worst in the nation.
2. Inadequate sewage treatment facilities routinely results in raw waste being dumped into the ocean near public beaches, especially on Oahu.
3. Out of control real estate development resulting and ever more disappearance of wetlands, forests and green spaces. The local politicians have virtually handed the keys of the island over to foreign investors.
4. Traffic choked freeways with no solution in sight. The multi million dollar rail boondoggle is now clearly a failure and will not be completed as planned. Another victory for outside opportunistic investors and their local facilitators.

I am sad for Hawaii.
Dan Minor (<br/>)
If there was absolutely nothing up there, no road, no anything I still wouldn't agree with the protesters but I could at least sorta, kinda, barely, see where they are coming from. They are, however, FIFTY years too late. This is the kind of multiculturalism run amok that is in danger of electing Donald Trump. There is proof accumulating by the minute that the odds of life in other solar systems are good to excellent, getting in the way of a project that can advance that goal, for a place that is already pretty much paved over is just beyond silly.
Mikehawkslarge (San Francisco)
Not so silly Danny...
The left only defend those whom they perceive they can exploit to gain a political benefit from. And exploit they will, promising the world to the exploited until they have served their purpose and are no longer useful to the cause.
Then they become expendable, are stabbed in the back, and thrown under the bus. It's the way the left has always operated, unfortunately the exploited never see it until it is too late and they have become the enemy. You haven't learned this yet Danny, but someday when you aren't useful anymore you will be discarded by the Democratic party too.
Enjoy yourself while it lasts because they soon will take it all away from you.
Alani (Pilana)
Any Hawaiian god with any sense would be surfing on one of our beautiful beaches rather than freezing on the top of a mountain
ChesBay (Maryland)
Although I support efforts to stop bully companies attempting to make a profit, just for themselves, from the use of sacred native land, as at Standing Rock, ND, THIS project is one that will benefit all of mankind. I think it should go ahead.
Miriam (San Rafael, CA)
The NY Times is finally discovering indigenous Earth protectors, and they are everywhere. Their knowledge from living thousands of years in harmony with their lands is certainly more valid than people from elsewhere with their advanced degrees.
BB (NYC/Montreal/Hawai'i)
I'm far from disputing scientific and technological advancement for the sake of humanity, being a professional in that field myself, but I'm fully in support of having respect to cultural heritage. Coming from Hilo, I am well aware most misunderstand the deep Hawaiian root as superstition, but it is far from that. It is the foundation of the Hawaiian existence, something undeniably here making the islands, especially Hawai'i so very special. Personally, I fail to see any compromise being workable with 13 other observatories already in place and that TMT themselves have acknowledged other comparable exist elsewhere. It is long overdue that the Hawaiians be given a chance to retain something sacred and deeply cherished by them, an ancient burial ground. I don't believe anyone would like having the burial sites of their loved ones trampled and removed anywhere in this world, so why should it be okay to disrespect something so sacred to the loveliest & most sincere people I've come across in my globe trotting? All people are equal and we should not always let the 'advancement' of some nor financial or celebrity gains be the sole benefactor in whatever cause. We would be a greater world if we all cherished our past and present as much as the Hawaiians do and together go forth into the future as a respectful race.
Fox (Bodega Bay)
Honestly, I would gladly raze the burial site of my family for this glass, and be honored to do so. My cultural history isn't nearly as important as the enlightenment legacy of my time. To be renewed and replaced with greater enlightenment.
Bill Appledorf (British Columbia)
Here is a solution: End corporate rule of this planet. Stop spewing air pollution everywhere on Earth as an offering to the almighty God called money. Stop polluting the night sky with light. Make the night sky crystal clear for human beings everywhere.

This story is not about a clash of traditional and technological values on Mauna Kea; it is about fighting over the few unspoiled crumbs that remain in the wake of ruthless corporate plunder. Corporations have transformed money from a tool to enable necessary things to be done into a slave driver that forces human beings to do unnecessary, destructive things to themselves, each other, and our world in order to survive.
NLL (Bloomington, IN)
Thank you Bill, for these words. You are so absolutely right on! I am copying them and will use them again, I hope it's OK.
dogpatch (Frozen Tundra, MN)
The view from Mauna Kea has nothing to do with avoiding pollution except maybe the light but that isn't so problematic. The top of the mountain pokes out of a good chunk of the naturally hazy and turbulent atmosphere. The reduces moisture and the maountain just happens to be in a place with the upper air currents are fairly gentle. All of that makes Mauna Kea one of the 3-4 best spots for large telescopes on Earth.
KC (Boston)
That's not really a solution at all.
Chris (Seattle)
I think scientists are confusing "in order to" and "for the sake of". Is the establishment of a telescope more important than respecting those who have lived and died there, forming a strong relationship to place? Doubt it. All the awe we'd get from building a telescope there already exists. What remains of this deal is simply show-off technology and oppression.
Lee Harrison (Albany)
Chris -- are you Duwamish? I doubt it. If not then by your logic you have no right to be in Seattle, because the Duwamish lived and died there for longer than the Polynesians who made it to Hawaii, and have a strong relation to place.

And no, "all the awe we'd get from building a telescope there already exists" ... is nuts. This is not about "awe." The telescope is not some modern techno statue of Ozymandias.
John Lubeck (Livermore, CA)
While there are often two legitimate sides to arguments (as there is in this case), and both sides should be listened to and evaluated, ignorance like the statement that this is "simply show-off technology" is just that, ignorant.
Holly (Brooklyn)
It seems to be a terrible waste of time and resources to protest the building of this telescope. The protesters should be held liable for the damage they are doing.
Kenarmy (Columbia, mo)
I wonder what you would say if someone despoiled your parent's grave? The perfect example of the attitude of these "scientists" is the disappearance of a family shrine from the mountain. I wonder what antiquities shop it was sold to? Or perhaps it graces someone's living room? Oh, and I am a scientist. But I don't go around performing clinical trials on people without informed consent, just because I believe in that our drug candidates will be effective in combating diseases.
JO (Midwest To NYC)
And what damage is that, Holly?

Respect needs to be paid.
ernieh1 (Queens, NY)
As a native of Hawaii (currently living in New York), as well as one who is a backer of scientific progress, I am conflicted by this issue.

But reading these comments, I am appalled at the few criticisms that attack the opposition view as "superstitious" because the native Hawaiians believe that Mauna Kea is a sacred place.

By the same token, an atheist and agnostic could also say the Christ legend of arising from the dead, the Holy Trinity, and all that are also superstitious.

My advice to commenters would be to stick to the genuine issues of land use and native Hawaiian rights versus the need of astronomy to put yet another scope on Mauna Kea.

For any who is interested I am on the side of the native Hawaiians. The original crime of forcefully annexing the islands was bad enough. Now leave what little remains of the original Hawaiian heritage alone.

Find another place to put the scope.
RH (GA)
You're right. The Christ legend of arising from the dead, the Holy Trinity, and all that are also superstitious. And if those things ever get in the way of basic science, then they too should be pushed aside for basic science.
Big Al (Southwest)
Ernieh is correct about the disrespect of Native American and Hawaiian peoples' religion as it is tied to land, as opposed to a building like the church built over the site in Israel where Jesus was allegedly born.

it's very clear that Federal law gives no protection, whatsoever, to land which Native Americans consider sacred. In Arizona the state's largest mountain is called Dook'o'oosłíí by the Navajo. The mountain is sacred to Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Apache, Acoma, Southern Paiute, Havasupai, Hualapai, Yavapai, and Mojave people. Dook'o'ooslii is "Federal land". Its western slope is leased to a ski run operator called Arizona Snow Bowl. Each winter non-Native American people are skiing and partying on the tribes' holy land.

Non-Native American people have difficulty understanding that a "holy land" can exist without an ancient building or two being present. In 2002, Arizona Snowbowl proposed a plan to expand and begin snowmaking using reclaimed water made of treated sewage effluent from the City of Flagstaff and its surrounding area. A coalition of tribes sued the Federal government, in an attempt to stop the spraying of sewage water on the holy land under the ski runs. In 2011, construction began on a wastewater pipeline to the mountain. In 2012 the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled the Native American tribes had no religious claims to the mountain which were protected by Federal law, and the spraying of sewage water on the sacred mountain began.
Swegen (Deadwood)
The christ legend is superstition. Same as saying voodoo reanimation of the dead is superstition. What is your point? Native Hawaiians don't get the right to claim the second largest geological feature in the solar system as exclusively theirs. Why not claim the whole planet as part of the mythology too and ban the construction of any new building anywhere? The state reached an accommodation before, certain parts of the mountain are set aside as "sacred." The other parts, like the peaks where the telescopes are located, that help us unravel the mysteries of the universe, belong to all of humanity.
CMK (Honolulu)
The University of Hawaii leases the top of this mountain for $1.00/year from the State out of the Ceded lands inventory. Ceded Lands are held in trust for the betterment of native Hawaiians and other purposes. When the University leased the land, the agreement was for one telescope and proper management of the mountain top. When the second telescope went up the lease was broken. there are 13 telescopes on the mountain now plus all the detritus of human habitation. The UH has failed. It is time to clean it up and return the mountaintop to the people.
Sharron Cushman (Kea'au, Hawaii)
We are not against science. Just those that put it before protection of the environment. Chile has started construction on a bigger telescope already making TMT obsolete. I have a problem with any entity that does not follow the conservation criteria already in place to protect the environment.This is our source of water and spirituality. The sacredness of Mauna a Wakea deserves the respect and care of any church, temple, or place of worship. Enforce the laws that are in place already to protect what should be protected. Understanding the impact of construction...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrqNyfXDs-U

#wearemaunakea #protectorsnotprotesters #aoletmt
Sharron Cushman (Kea'au, Hawaii)
YL (Berkeley, CA)
"Chile has started construction on a bigger telescope already making TMT obsolete"

It is just incredible to read such uninformed comment. The E-ELT is operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), and by its funding, will be restricted for astronomers from non-member states, including the US. If you have no idea how to apply for ESO telescope time as a non-member observer, do not make such a cavalier comment.

Mauna Kea has also better atmospheric conditions (temperature, wind, high altitude turbulence) than ESO's Cerro Armazones, which you can see on pp. 15 and 18 from https://arxiv.org/abs/0904.1183
Charlie in Gainesville, Florida (Gainesville, Florida)
You are not correct. The "bigger telescope" in Chile (actually two telescopes) will not make TMT obsolete. They are comparable in capabilities and performance to TMT. The extra edge that TMT would have to offer is the superlative, unmatched quality of the Mauna Kea sky. I do agree with you that we must protect Mauna Kea, but there must be a way to do that and still have all the benefits that TMT can provide to science and Hawaii.
richard schumacher (united states)
Mauna Kea is now dormant unto death because Pele has moved south, to Kīlauea. She will not be happy with Her worshiper's failure to follow Her.
Luke Wilson (Vancouver, Canada)
I wouldn’t work at a company involved in Canada’s contribution to this telescope if I didn’t believe in it.

Advancements in science benefit humanity as a whole. Penicillin, insulin, the internet, satellites; these were for everyone, not just the rich or privileged. This 1.4 billion dollar project involves countries of vastly different cultures around the globe agreeing to come together with science as the goal. This project is not evil, it’s noble. Imagine how far the science community has come that there was international agreement to abide by so many stipulations in building this project, rather than steamrolling local voices like a new casino might or a hotel on an immaculate beach. In building this new telescope, smaller telescopes will be decommissioned as a compromise, millions of dollars will be philanthropically invested annually and labour will be sourced locally. Polling of locals suggests approval with these voices overshadowed by an active minority. When the entire world has come together and is proactively trying to find mutual agreement with local stakeholders, “No, no matter what” is not a positive or helpful message.
Swannie (Honolulu, HI)
An Astronomer from the University of Hawaii was given time on a small telescope up on the summit, a 'scope that was considered too small for "real" research. With patience he discovered the first of the large Kuiper Belt mini-planets. Maunakea is such a good observation site, and it's Latitude allows viewing so many northern hemisphere celestial targets that are obscured from other high altitude locations, let us not allow the Hawai'ian luddites to block this project. What really rattles my cage is the full ahead bulldozing going on down in the flat land at the base of the mountain where their ancestors lived and are buried. It's just easier for these new found spirit worshipers to beat up on the astronomer wienies than to take on the 'cat skinners.
William Alan Shirley (Richmond, California)
In 1972 we hiked Haleakala. My girlfriend and I went off trail around a cinder and slept. For three nights we saw the most wondrous stars ever in my life.

Google "The most important image ever taken" by the Hubble Ultra Deep Field in ultraviolet 2014.. In a random photo of the sky the size of a sesame seed there are over 10,000 galaxies. Please Google it and see what is possible for us to discover. Our ancestors could not observe this wonder and begin to contemplate its meaning and our place in the universe. Witnessing infinitely more than our Milky Way can take ones mind beyond the beyond.

Ours galaxy is 100,000 light years across. A light year is the distance that light travels in a year… nearly 6,000,000,000,000 miles. So ours is 600,000,000,000,000,000 across. Many are ten x that. And there are perhaps infinite galaxies. I suggest you read that again. And again. And pause for a few moments to contemplate it. Maybe a few years.

Alternative sites exist, but the scientists chose Mauna Kea because it is the best. This is one of the great gifts that Mauna Kea and the great people of Hawaii have to offer the world. If they only will.
Lee Harrison (Albany)
No alternative site for this telescope exists... it won't be built if it can only be built at an inferior site, or in the southern hemisphere ... next to the competition that is ahead of it.
William Alan Shirley (Richmond, California)
Thank you. My misunderstanding. Blessings for the Hawaiians breakthrough.
drollere (sebastopol)
it's useful to make the analogy between arrogant scientific organizations vs. native culture and arrogant federal agencies vs. rural ranchers or pipeline building oil companies vs. american indian tribes. there is a global pattern of disenfranchised or marginalized minority groups using land rights as leverage against more powerful institutions.

i have spent the night on mauna kea and there is nothing up there but observatories and a high security air force installation. no water, no plants, no life to speak of. the road to the summit is long, winding and dangerous.

i have very little sympathy for the science agencies that were arrogant, careless and callous in their planning, activities and care of the mountain. they created this mess from the beginning. i have even less sympathy for the twee superstitions of tribal culture and the personalities who crave validation in ethnic garb of any kind.

true, it's not science vs. religion: it's institutional stupidity versus cultural hysteria. put them both in a canoe and launch them to tahiti.
Big Al (Southwest)
And while you're at it put all the Christians in replicas of the Mayflower and send them back to wherever they came from in Europe and the Middle East. Or is their religion "not a superstition" too?
Lee Harrison (Albany)
It's a superstition too.
Sue (Vancouver BC)
Two things.

"'This is a very simple case about land use,' [said] Kealoha Pisciotta . . . 'It’s not science versus religion.'" This seems disingenuous when these local people's objection to the telescopes appears to have a religious basis.

Says Lanakila: "Our connection to the mountain is like, that’s our elder, the mother of our resources. . . . We’re talking about the wau akua, the realm of where the gods live.”

Secondly:

"'It would be really hard for Hawaiian people to swallow that,” [Ms. Pisciotta] said. 'It’s always been our way to lift our prayers up to heaven and hope they hear us.'"

Ms. Pisciotta is claiming to speak for Hawaiian people in general. Does she? That's a pretty broad claim.
Guy (Tucson, AZ)
The Hawaiian opposition might want to consider a very similar project with a very different approach from the indigenous people whose land the telescopes were built on. The Kitt Peak National Obsevatory was built on the the lands of the Tohono O’odham Reservation From the Indian country article

"The O’odham realized the telescopes on Kitt Peak would not interfere with their ancestral land" and "The O’odham elders were not looking for financial gain but for a way to educate and employ tribal members said Bernard Siquieros, the education curator at the Tohono O’odham Nation Cultural Center & Museum in Topawa."

I can't think of anything less offensive than an astronomical observatory. Unfortunately there seems to be a reflexive kick back reaction to anything non indigenous in a small part of the population there.
Swegen (Deadwood)
The "protesters" do this everywhere there is a state or federal project in Hawaii so that they can get payoffs.
Adam (Calif.)
Perhaps Native Hawaiian people and the O'odham have different religions, and different conceptions of the sacredness of their mountains. Or, perhaps, the Kitt Peak observatory worked with O'odham people instead of against them? It is disturbing you are able to blithely combine these two peoples and situations as if they are the same.
Andrew (PA)
It's simply incredible to me that the TMT team managed to raise literally billions of dollars but could not make time to bridge this cultural divide.

Certainly the scientific community does not deserve full blame for centuries of colonialist policies- but the native Hawaiians are right to be offended, and they're right to demanding that anyone who uses this incredible land be held to their stewardship commitments. So far, that hasn't been the case -- and perhaps this pressure will bring proper care back into focus for Mauna Kea.
John Geek (Left Coast)
they DID bridge the divide, but then newcomers came along and moved the goal posts.
Erica (Honolulu)
It would be reasonable for the scientists involved to think that they had.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs had already expressed support for the project, and OHA is the closest thing to a governing/leadership entity for Native Hawaiians. It is elected and manages hundreds of millions of dollars and significant amounts of land on behalf of the Hawaiian community.

There are also Native Hawaiians who had ongoing involvement with the management of the mountain through Kahu Ku Mauna (Guardians of the Mountain). http://www.malamamaunakea.org/management/kahu-ku-mauna

The telescope team had also pledged a large amount of money to support education in science and technology on that island, which would help many Native Hawaiian students, albeit in a non-race-based way.
Jon Dama (Charleston, SC)
This is nonsense. A few fanatics thwarting a worth while science development. A mountain is not "sacred." This is pure superstition.
NLL (Bloomington, IN)
Jon, are you an atheist? Or perhaps a Christian? Are their no places that are sacred to you?
Sarah (Boston)
" A mountain is not "sacred." This is pure superstition."

Well to me the Vatican and the Rock in Jerusalem and Uluru aren't "sacred" either. Would you be willing to put a scientific observatory in either of those locations? If yes, then I applaud your consistency. If no, then try being a bit more respectful of others religious beliefs. I personally belief it's all mythology but it's important to respect that other people believe. As someone who came very close to going into astronomy, I hope to see a new telescope on Mauna Kea (but I'd also put a lab in the middle of the Vatican if a) it could be done respectfully and b) if it would lead to good science).
Lee Harrison (Albany)
Sarah, those places you name are abominable in terms of atmospheric "seeing" conditions, so no modern observatory will ever be built in those places ... but if they were optimal ... sure, fine by me.

And as others have mentioned ... Rome and Jerusalem are built-up major cities, there's no "it's sacred" objection to a big structure in either one.

And Mauna Kea already has 3 major telescopes and a bunch of little ones at the top.

This whole thing is a pretext. It's about power and anger and resentment. None of that has anything to do with "sacred."
Pierre Markuse (NRW, Germany)
I really hope that common ground can be found. A telescope is no coal-fired power plant and while it certainly has environmental impacts, those impacts can be reduced to a minimum, when given a little attention and foresight.

I believe the protests against this particular telescope, and the telescopes in general, are more of a symptom of how the natives feel about their general treatment and how little they have been involved in processes affecting their cultural and historical backgrounds. This is a possibility for them to shine some light on their situation and get media attention. If both sides are open-minded a solution can surely be found.
Jim (Knoxville, TN)
I never thought Hawaiian Pride would end up falling under the rubric of the "angry little people determined to ruin everything because they haven't been respected" whose members globally are ruining the entire world from the Philippines to Europe to Colombia, the US pending …
greatnesslostislegend (Kihei, Maui, Hawaii)
This is how activists, first funded by the KGB by the way, burrowed into the university system and revised history. The last King of Hawaii, sovereign over the Kingdom these protestors profess to represent designated Mauna Kea as a site to be used to set up telescopes. The only historical use in the region is an area of hard blue rock mined for use in fashioning weapons, or certain utility items.

If this region was so sacred by the Hawaiian Kingdom, why did the King designate it for scientific use?

Yes there is a place for local consultation, but first there has to be facts to base it on.
joe (atl)
It was Polynesian "Wayfinders" who used the stars to discover Hawaii. It's quite hypocritical of modern Hawaiians to now try to stop the advancement of astronomy. Also no "gods" live on the mountain. It's cold and barren with little oxygen. A lot of indigenous myths about natural places are relatively recent stories designed to extort money or benefits out of gullible white people.
MKQ (.)
'... Polynesian "Wayfinders" who used the stars to discover Hawaii.'

Not just "the stars". As the articles says, "ancient Polynesians could have purposefully explored and colonized the Pacific, navigating the seas using only the sun, stars, ocean swells and wind."

Anyway, ancient Polynesians didn't need a 30 meter telescope to navigate, so there is no hypocrisy.
Rumflehead (ny,ny)
orbiting telescope
there's enough technology
defense budget caters for it
MKQ (.)
With a diameter of 30 meters, the TMT telescope will far surpass any orbiting telescope. The Hubble is 2.4 meters, and the forthcoming Webb is 6.5 meters. Further, space telescopes require a space mission for maintenance and upgrades.
Hawaiino (Hawaii)
The comment by Dr. Bolte suggesting that this is also a proxy war for the sovereignty movement gets closest to the crux of this matter. If your reporter delved a little deeper into the makeup and history of the opposition the schisms would be apparent, those with the widest axes to grind were also the latest to join the fray. The due process issue that brought this project to a halt is solely the fault of the State of Hawaii and how they administer public lands through statute, rule, and policy. The loss of the permit had nothing to do with the merits of the project or any of the other issues raised here. Thats why Piscotta, who has been somewhat elbowed to the side by the nouveau opposition, dwells on the "...simple case of land use." What's interesting is she's continually lost all of these other argument on this matter for years when it was much more than a land use matter to her. Perhaps the reporter could have mentioned all of the prior public hearings, EA's, EIS's, reports, and Findings of Fact that preceded the current hearing. The scrutiny and attention to detail that the historical opposition (Piscotta, Order of Kamehameha, hunters) were catalysts for will persist. If the opposition forces TMT elsewhere over this procedural error, poho ! The sovereignty movement should make it's case in a clear and unambiguous manner, not by being the wedge issue in a long planned, properly vetted project .
lou andrews (portland oregon)
i agree with you completely. It's also the excuse many Hawaiians vent their hatred and racism, and boy are many of them racist; the Hawaiian equivalent of the John Birch Society.
Fred Bloggs (HI)
If the only power you give someone is the power to say "no", then "no" is all you will hear.
Doug Terry/2016 (Maryland)
Your brief comment is a summation of considerable wisdom. No is the most powerful word in the language and a favorite of those who have no other means of using power. No. No. No. All the time.
oldsurfa (hawaii)
I was originally torn by the arguments on both sides. While I understand and welcome the discoveries that can be made by TMT, I now stand against it. The project cannot and should not supersede the rights of native people over protecting their sacred mountain. It is no different than the Sioux protecting their land from the oil pipeline being proposed. Beyond that, I personally object to an 18 story monstrosity visible for for miles in every direction adding significantly to the visual pollution.

The telescope can be built elsewhere. There is only one Mauna Kea.
JEG (New York, New York)
Visual pollution? What does that even mean? And where else do you believe this scientific tool can be placed?
Dave (Flyover country)
Chile - - where an even larger scope is already being built. It is a national "measuring" contest
Rd Mn (Jcy Cty, NJ)
No, the telescope cannot be built elsewhere - because there is only one Mauna Kea, i.e. this location has unique advantages. "There are only a few places on Earth that are dark, dry and calm enough to be fit."
And it's not "like a pipeline", in the sense that it's just a building, not something that can poison land and water for miles and miles when it fails.
JeffL (Hawaii)
I could see the logic of the protesters if there were no observatories already built on the summit, but like here in Maui, there are already many. One more is not going to make the summit more or less sacred. My understanding is that authorities are agreeing - as part of the deal - to dismantle many of the existing ones over time so that there will actually be fewer structures. This may be a problem of proper process - why weren't these issues addressed before millions were invested? Unfortunately, the Gov. of Hawaii has a history of not following proper process and then paying for it later ( see SuperFerry). This citizen of Hawaii wants to see the telescope go forward while acknowledging the needs of Native Hawaiians.
Erica (Honolulu)
So true! It seems like we need education for both our community and leaders on how the permit process is supposed to work. It is not obvious to me that issuing a permit that calls for a contested case hearing prior to being valid for construction is a violation of due process rights. A lower court ruled in favor of the telescope permit and then the Hawaii Supreme court invalidated the permit.

Was this a problem with our permitting rules being too vague? Are the rules clear but did the Board of Land and Natural Resources, which issued the permit, not know the rules? As JeffL mentions above, this is not the first time this has happened.

Also, the community should know enough about the permit process to know when a protest or letter in support would be most effective. The documents show that this project and the planning leading up to it actually involved lots of community input, but there are many other projects people may want to speak against.

Ho'opili is controversial, since it will turn much of Oahu's best farmland into homes and apartments, but when it's in the paper, you just hear that approval has been granted. Each time, it sounds like it's a done deal, and then you hear about some other approval that they had to get a few months later, only after that has been approved too. This is effective at dampening the public outcry, but it creates a poor understanding of when to have your voice heard, so you may get protests when construction is starting.
Ledoc254 (Montclair. NJ)
Interesting article but did the author have to hype it up by claiming that Mauna Kia is the second tallest mountain in the solar system when it is a well known fact that mountain heights are always measured above sea level? Subtracting its below water portion leaves Mauna Kia outside of even the top 14 mountains on earth. It is the lack of light pollution that makes this site so desirable not it's nearness to the heavens above. Personally, I hope they get to build the telescope there but if they don't I am sure they will find a more accommodating site somewhere else on earth;then the telescope's opponents can continue to lift their prayers up to the heavens and hope they are heard.
brooks (Austin, TX)
The article makes it pretty clear that it is measured from the sea floor and says "second biggest" not "tallest".
JO (Midwest To NYC)
It's not hype; it's true.
Fernando (Florida)
While mountains on Earth are measured by height above sea level this doesn't work for other bodies since only Earth and Titan have any kind of seas on them. So on other bodies mountains are measured by height relative to their surrounding landscape. This method is then also used for Earth's mountains
Joe (Iowa)
Please give me a definition of "sacred", and then tell me who gets to decide which parcel of land is "sacred", and who enforces it? This whole thing is a joke. Put up the telescope. Aliens will either save us or eat us, and frankly I'm ready for either after reading this tripe.
Peter (New Haven)
Unfortunately, this "joke" is no joke to the Hawaiians who live there. Iowa may not have much of a cultural heritage with regards to sacred lands (though there are likely some native Americans who disagree), but would you say the same thing to people living in Jerusalem or Vatican City, or any other number of ancient places that people have admired for millenia? Just pave it over and get on with it? For better or worse, people have strong attachments to their historical lands, and it is not so simple as just "get on with it." I hope the telescope gets built, but like the telescope your view could use a little broadening.
oldnassau (west palm beach, fl)
Among them is the pro-telescope Hawaiian group called Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities or PUEO, who contend the benefits of the TMT to the community have been undersold.
...short-eared Hawaiian owls. “These are called pueo, and they are said to be the physical form of ancestor spirits,”
1. I knew there was a reason for the seemingly awkward anagram.
2. Looks as if as many Hawaiian's are for, as against, the telescope. Ergo, Ms. Pisciotta does not speak for the “Hawaiian people”.
3. Had the US not annexed the islands, properly or not, I wonder what would have occurred after Dec. 7, 1941?
dogpatch (Frozen Tundra, MN)
What Ms Pisciotta speaks for is a tiny group that also want to bring back the Hawaiian royal family.
Kenarmy (Columbia, mo)
Presuming the Pacific fleet was not anchored in the bay, probably nothing! The Hawaiian Islands are thousand's of miles away from the eastern most Japanese conquests in WWII. The Aleutians are much closer - check out a map!
Mr Bretz (Florida)
Kenarmy, the Japanese tried to conquer all the Pacific Islands. I think it would have been a cakewalk to take the Hawaiian Is. back then. They could have kept their fleet there. And the Japanese were stern rulers. We may have seen Iwo Jima type monuments in Hawaii if it wasn't a US territory.
GD (Boston, MA)
And how do the Hawaiian opposition groups feel about wrapping themselves in flags and resentment, choking of the rest of humanity from learning profound new science from the proposed telescope? There is just as much arrogance and presumption in those roadblocks as there is in building permits hastily issued without much local consultation. The conflict might not be Galileo vs the Church, but it's sure not David vs Goliath, either.
Bill Sprague (on the planet)
“Our connection to the mountain is like, that’s our elder, the mother of our resources,” he said. “We’re talking about the wau akua, the realm of where the gods live.” And the almighty god is the dollar. I know an astrophysicist at UC Berkeley and I also know people who have lived in Hawai'i for over 30 years. There is indeed something special about the islands and they were of course stolen by the US. The TMT should go elsewhere. If the US can put up the Hubble then it can put up something else, too. Don't ruin Mauna Kea in the name of science. It has already been scarred enough.
joe (atl)
Aren't there already about six telescopes there?
Crusader (America, America)
A mountain is not humans' elder.
Sue (Vancouver BC)
How does this project ruin Mauna Kea?
Rational Person (NYC)
Superstition stopping progress. We can't study our universe because a long time ago some people who didn't have science made up stories and left stuff up there. Sad. Why should we be beholden to the dead? Its our world now. Ignorance should not win. We don't burn witches anymore.
Sue (Vancouver BC)
I learned long ago not to congratulate myself on my supreme rationality.
Harry (Redstatistan)
"We don't burn witches anymore."

You do, however, marginalize the "superstitious."
Gordon (Oakland)
"Its our world now." Sad that you belittle their beliefs and feel so entitled.
bgt (Texas)
Ignorance wins again.
Michael Hoffman (Pacific Northwest)
Of all the astonishing sights I saw on the island of Hawaii’s neighbor, Maui, was at 3 am when I went outside the bee keeper’s cottage where I was staying in the very rural (Hana) region. I was having a coughing fit and didn’t want to wake my wife, so I went out into the field. After the coughing subsided, I happened to look up in the total darkness and almost fell over. There in the cosmic canopy above me were tens of thousands — or was it millions-- of stars in a riot of pinpoints and cottony balls of light.

It was a miracle, and I stood there in awe for I don’t know how long. Surely the native Hawaiians and the star-gazing scientists can find mutual ground for the best way to access that vision of light fantastic. We will all be the poorer if they do not.
Gió (Baltimore, MD)
I hope you went back to wake your wife!
Spence (RI)
The number of naked-eye stars, under dark skies, is only in the thousands. The perception of many more is likely due to the comparative effects of light pollution, in many places, washing out the view of much of the night sky. Kind of like trying to see a candle flame while staring at a klieg light.

For more
http://darksky.org
MKQ (.)
"There in the cosmic canopy above me were tens of thousands — or was it millions-- of stars in a riot of pinpoints and cottony balls of light."

You were seeing the Milky Way:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milky_Way
Alfred (Whittaker)
An important point left out of the debate is that 1) the majority of Hawaii state residents support the telescopes; 2) the majority of ethnic Hawaiians support the telescopes; 3) but a modest majority of ethnic Hawaiians on the Big Island oppose the telescopes.

So if you put the telescopes to a state-wide referendum limited to those of Hawaiian blood, the telescopes would still be supported. Yes, the opposition is vocal, and they deserve to be heard, but their view is not the view of the majority of those of Hawaiian descent.
JO (Midwest To NYC)
It's always a good idea to respect the indigenous culture(s) of any place that you plan on putting down roots. I commend those scientist who do.

A friend__ who grew up in Hilo__stated that Pele isn't yet finished creating the Big Island. Whether you are religious, agnostic or atheistic, respect goes a long way. Mahalo.
Sue (Vancouver BC)
What's your position on actually building the new telescope?
Kevin Cahill (Albuquerque)
The telescope should be built to the specifications of the astronomers.

Financial compensation and job preferences should be given to the Hawaiian natives whose religious superstitions are offended.
Mike (CA)
Sad to see superstition win out over science. Can't we just get along?
Harry (Redstatistan)
Not by continually marginalizing your "opposition" as "superstitious."
dogpatch (Frozen Tundra, MN)
All the people who are normally screaming 'separation of church and state!' or bemoaning how people can believe in 'superstitious nonsense' are really quite in this issue.
ajarnDB (Hawaii)
Living in Hilo, I see Mauna Kea daily (if the rain doesn't block the view). The telescopes that are on the mountain currently, for me and probably many others, are beacons of connectivity to the universe. Seeing them is humbling as they show how small and (currently) blind we are to what the universe entails.

With all due respect, the people of Hawaii should take pride in being part of spearheading our steps out of our allegorical cave of darkness and should take pride in identity as members of humanity reaching out for knowledge.
Miriam (San Rafael, CA)
How nice of you to tell native Hawaiians how they should feel and act.
Harlan Kanoa Sheppard (Honolulu)
As a citizen of the State of Hawaii, I'm saddened by this whole thing. Astronomers tend to be the best among us, reminding of the wonders to be found when you turn your eyes upward. Encouraging us to get along so we can reach to the skies and beyond.

On one hand I'm happy to see Native Hawaiians actively involved in politics, but the cynic in me asks "Why only now?". Having not been taken seriously over many years (and government projects), there are some angry people in the community and they deserve to be heard and respected. I hope they realize the benefit for themselves and their descendants, in time.
Pete (Geneva)
Political correctness becoming sheer madness. How far will this crazy behaviour go?
Jim (Knoxville, TN)
It's interesting you file this under political correctness when I would file it under angry nativists who feel the elite has ignored them and will do whatever it takes to make their anger felt no matter the cost.
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