LETTER: Thirty Meter TelescopeSeptember 10, 2019, 4:35 PM HST (Updated September 10, 2019, 4:35 PM)
The protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea have reached the two-month milestone. This telescope project has caused a firestorm of anger from the Hawaiian community that I’ve never seen in my entire 43 years living in Hawaii. This has galvanized the Hawaiian community to resume the Hawaiian Renaissance movement.
This deeply concerns me, as the underlying issues that caused this protest won’t disappear—even if the Thirty Meter Telescope relocates to the Canary Islands. I’m concerned these protesters will block other projects like new highways, shopping centers, or housing developments, if the TMT is forced to go.
The TMT’s possible departure will raise questions about the future of astronomy on Maunakea. The master lease is scheduled to expire in 2033. If the TMT isn’t constructed, there is strong possibility the other existing telescopes won’t upgrade their facilities, and will decide to decommission instead. Why would these other operators want to invest money in their facilities, especially since the state and county can’t clear the road, and there is no guarantee the lease will be extended?
Investors will also think twice about investing money in Hawaii going forward. The TMT successfully underwent a 10-year permitting and judicial process to only be blocked by protesters illegally blocking Maunakea Access Road. The state and county of Hawaii have shown they’re spineless as far as clearing the road. If the TMT relocates, anarchy will have won out over the rule of law. This will set a disastrous precedent that will have far ranging implications.
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