LETTER: TMT Solutions: From Golf to Science to Faith

Listen to this Article
3 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00

Several of my letters have appeared in opinion sections having to do with the very local issue of the Waikoloa Village community golf course and my proposal to “repurpose” it into a high-tech campus.

The core of my proposal was to invite the Thirty Meter Telescope Observatory Corporation to consider Waikoloa Village as another potential site for the terminus (labs, offices, data download center, etc.) and perhaps even a portion of the University of Hawai‘i’s Institute for Astronomy, as well.

Our golf course, and golf in general, is an emotionally charged issue alone, but when added to the supercharged issue of the TMT, it became too hot for our board of directors to handle. Thus, after extending an offer to make a presentation at our board meeting, the offer was retracted only minutes later.

In hindsight, this should not have been surprising (even though it was). Since hindsight is usually much clearer than “front sight’,” I could see the depth and complexity of the divide surrounding the TMT for the first time.

It’s been said that if you dig long enough and deep enough, eventually you’ll get to the root of the problem. In the case of the TMT, there seem to be many roots involved—all are important but the deepest and thickest are likely respect, trust, faith and honor—or the lack thereof.


If any of these roots are damaged, growth stops; there is no understanding; there is no deal to be made.

The folks I’ve spoken with (on both sides of the issue) share a common trait: They are deeply conflicted and very uncomfortable in thinking about what they would decide if asked to do so.

All of them accepted the notion that “kicking the decision upstairs” was an inadequate solution and would likely be rejected by either or both sides. In this respect, it would never be “settled”—it would never end.

Perhaps they have all walked right past the most obvious answer—it is the wrong “upstairs.”


I would (very humbly) suggest that this is not a matter to be decided by mortals.

While looking at the recent images of the lava chimney twisting, flexing and flowing into the sea, I was struck with the notion that it could well be Madam Pele’s finger pointing into her older sister, Namakaokahai’s, hands.

It’s a conflict born before there was time and likely to last long after time is done. In the hands of the two sisters lies the fate of the islands; past, present and future.

If we could only slip a writing instrument into this point—the intersection of fire and water, a real honest-to-God warp in space and time, where faith and reality meet in plumes of fire and steam—what would the sisters tell us?


This is the place. Let the sisters who shaped these islands guide us in this most difficult of mortal decisions. Now is the time.

Imagine a small, twin-hulled craft. One side carries a cultural object; the other carries a small telescope. They are the same size and weight. The craft is taken to the place and released toward the flow. The results are observed by a panel of judges, those who are the true “chiefs” of their respective beliefs, traditional vs. corporate.

Their vision of what happens and the interpretation of it becomes the final and never-to-be-disputed judgement. The TMT either stays or it goes. The machinery of the state will be directed to follow this judgement as will the opposition and the corporation.

The stakes are high. The entire summit and all the existing observatories are also ultimately affected—and the whole of science. Perhaps the sisters, together, can soften the hearts and open the minds of the “chiefs” and allow them all to reclaim their respect, trust, faith and honor. Do it. Do it now…

Sponsored Content

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay in-the-know with daily or weekly
headlines delivered straight to your inbox.


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Big Island Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments