Burning Farms

One of the most poignant scenes we witnessed was the many farms destroyed by the lava

Flow Front
The front of the fissure 8 flow approaches Kapoho Bay
We took our helicopter ride Sunday morning, June 3rd. At this point the large flow from fissure 8 had not yet reached the neighborhoods at Kapoho. What the flow was burning through were the many papaya orchards and flower growers found above the bay.

Houses are bad enough, seeing the farms in front of the lava flow was worse. I found myself looking through the telephoto lens at the neat greenhouses, the orchards green in the morning sunlight. The wide flow front was in the process of destroying so many farms, remorselessly moving through the neat rows of papaya trees.

Orchid Plantation Inc.
The greenhouses of Orchid Plantation Inc. disappearing under the lava.
I am aware of how much a farmer puts into the land… Sweat, blood, heart and soul. I look at the photos and I see immaculate operations… Well maintained buildings, no weeds around the structures, the pitiless lava flow advancing. Each scene that appeared in the camera viewfinder was gut-wrenching.

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Confusing Islands

I understand that some of our family can be a bit fuzzy on island geography. We have had a few exchanges with family members over the last couple days where we have had to remind them that we live on the other side of the island from the volcano. Yes, we are just fine and in no danger from the new eruption.

Confusing the Hawaiian islands on Fox News
Apparently some who should know better have similar issues with geography.

Like Fox News.

At least our family members understand the difference between Hawaiʻi Island and Oahu. But a national news network? I guess that to many Oahu is Hawaiʻi, rather in the same way that Los Angeles is California. Shall we just ignore 230 miles of Pacific Ocean and a few other islands in the way.

Yes, Deb felt the earthquakes in Waikoloa, but they were not bad. There was not even a broken glass at the house despite a magnitude 6.9 earthquake at the the other end of the island. We are 65 miles and two very large mountains away from the volcano.

I was at work and experienced the earthquakes at the summit. Mag 6.9 is now my personal record for strongest earthquake felt, I really do not need to feel anything larger.

While we are safely away from the new lava flows, there are many who are not. It is hard to describe my emotions when seeing video of a house burning as the lava pushes through. Nicely kept gardens surrounding the house betray the effort and pride of the home owner. You can feel dimly the shattering loss of a home and everything that goes with it.

Observing Sunset from the Summit of Mauna Kea

During discussions concerning a previous posting another aspect of the video of Ms. Pisciotta became the subject of the conversation. For one familiar with the summit and the position of the features, the claims seem unlikely, something worth a closer look.

Kealoha Pisciotta testifying on religious practice on the summit of Mauna Kea during a BLNR public meeting, video from Nā Leo TV
If you listen to the clip Ms. Pisciotta makes a very emphatic claim… That the construction of TMT will block the view of the Sun as it makes its annual pattern of sunsets along the horizon.

While I am singling out Ms. Pisciotta a bit here, she is a key figure in the opposition. She is a leader of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, the most active opposition group and a primary participant in every significant legal case on the issue for the last several decades.

How can we examine this claim? From winter solstice, to equinox, to summer solstice, the position of sunrise and sunset changes significantly. This cycle has been tracked by shamans and priests for millennia, using the pattern to set the time of planting or religious ceremonies.

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Scientific Misappropriation

In learning about Mauna Kea and the multifaceted issues that surround our mauna. Reading and listening to modern practitioners describe their relationship with the mauna is interesting, you can learn much about the old beliefs and traditional relationships with the landscape and ecosystems of the islands.

In listening to some practitioners there are some claims that keep catching my attention. Claims that just seem out of place when considering traditional practices. More than once I have just stopped mid-thought and questioned what I just heard. A mental “What?!?”, did I hear that correctly? Some of these are subtle, perhaps missed by someone unfamiliar with the complex cycles of the our world and the sky above. Other claims are obvious, claims of practices or knowledge inconsistent with the old records.

Kealoha Pisciotta testifying on religious practice on the summit of Mauna Kea during a BLNR public meeting, video from Nā Leo TV
Most recently a claim that got my attention quickly was a celebration of a 26,000 year cycle. The claim was made during testimony at a BLNR board meeting when accepting the TMT conservation district use permit.

There is indeed a 26,000 year cycle in the patterns of the sky, well known to anyone seriously involved in astronomy. It is a result of a wobble in our Earth’s rotation called precession. The effect is extraordinarily subtle, something that could not be noted in a lifetime, or even a few lifetimes of careful sky-watching.

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SB757 Relating the the University of Hawaii

This one is weird. This one is also an example of the strange maneuvers used by our state legislators to pass laws, particularly laws that face substantial opposition. Of these maneuvers, gut and replace is probably the most despicable, the wholesale replacing of a bill’s contents with different text of totally different intent.

The MKSS snowplow crews remove snow from the roads atop Mauna Kea
The MKSS snowplow crews remove snow from the roads atop Mauna Kea
The latest example? SB757 is today’s subject. This bill once addressed the university’s ability to issue bonds. As of the latest version the bill calls for an audit of the agencies charged with the management of Mauna Kea… Yes, the bill is a now a nearly identical copy of SB2325, the same audit bill I addressed last week here on Darker View.

Why another bill with the same language? The first bill, SB2325 is still active and making it’s way through the process.

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HB1565 Relating to Science and Technology Research

Another proposed bill that has been carried over from the 2017 legislative session is HB1565. The purpose of this bill is to create a conservation district sub-zone category specifically geared to supporting research and technology facilities. The astronomy precinct atop Mauna Kea is identified as such a sub-zone along with seven other sites such as NELHA and the facilities atop Haleakalā.

Sunset Crowd
A crowd of mountain visitors watch sunset around UKIRT

The legislature further finds that research activity brings in millions of dollars that help diversify and stabilize the State’s economy that is heavily dependent on tourism, which is a cyclical industry. A study of research expenditures in the University of Hawaii system alone, not including private or non-university funded federal projects, showed that research activity had an economic impact on business sales of $760,000,000, state taxes of $45,000,000, employee earnings of $275,000,000, and the generation of about seven thousand jobs. – Excerpt from HB1565 proposed legislation for the 2018 Hawaii legislature

The bill would designate specific lands to be used for science and technology facilities. More interestingly the bill specifies a set of rules by which these lands are to be administered and subleases are to be negotiated.

The bill simplifies and streamlines the land use decision process. In the case of opposition to development within a science and technology sub-zone the method of dispute is designated as mediation rather than a contested case hearing.

This bill is certain to be a lightning rod for opponents of astronomy on Mauna Kea and Hakeakula. The opposition will be vehement to say the least. Indeed, it will be interesting to read the opposition commentary.

Ahu
An ancient ahu (shrine) atop Mauna Kea with the summit in the background
There is much to consider in this bill… Creating a sub-zone specifically for research facilities is probably a good thing. This recognizes a very specific land use that should have equally specific rules governing the use.

But there remains a question… Does the process specified in this particular bill to manage this new type of sub-zone excessively curtail public participation in the land management process? Where is the balance between sensible development and protection of the environment?

We currently have a situation in which a small and vocal minority can completely derail the process, that even reasonable development is blocked. A situation where only extraordinarily well funded organizations can accomplish anything. Then only with a stunning amount of wasted resources and effort along the way.

SB2325 Relating to Mauna Kea

As we continue an examination of the proposed legislation concerning Mauna Kea we come to the next bill SB2325. This bill advanced for the 2018 legislative session would require a “forensic financial audit” of the organizations that manage Mauna Kea.

Gemini and UH88 Under Moonlight
Gemini and the UH88 under moonlight
There is very little text to the actual bill, it is quite short, a single page. Notably there is no explanatory justification as is customarily found in the first section most bills. No explanation as to why this legislation is being proposed or why it is needed.

What is there is a laundry list of organizations to be audited starting with the University of Hawaii and the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The list specifically includes the Hawaii Island New Knowledge Fund charity set up to allow observatory contributions to the educational needs of Hawaii Island students.

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SB1025/HB1159 Relating to Light Pollution

Light pollution, a subject near and dear to any sky-gazers heart. It seems we are always struggling to educate our fellow citizens that more is not better, it can be far worse, particularly when it comes to the subject of artificial light. We are at odds with the child inside all of us that delights in the creation of light, a magic that never seems to lose its charm.

LED versus Low Pressure Sodium
Downtown Waimea with new LED streetlights and old LPS
Unfortunately artificial light has a price, and it can be steep, a hidden cost that many do not see. Light at night consumes a lot of energy, megawatts that are simply wasted illuminating places where no one sees it. Or worse, mega watts that are shone into the sky where it has no benefit at all.

Artificial light harms many species that live near our cities and towns, birds, sea-turtles, and more lured to their doom by the lights. The light also harm us, disturbing circadian rhythms and other natural cycles necessary for good health.

Light pollution also obscures the stars, drowning out the universe that would otherwise shine brightly overhead. Besides being a subject we should all care about, the night skies have a real economic impact here in Hawaii, a state largely dependent on a healthy environment and the tourists that come to enjoy that environment.

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HB1767 4WD On Waipio and Mauna Kea

Found among the recent legislation proposed for the 2018 session is HB1767 Related to Motor Vehicles. The bill caught my attention when searching for proposed legislation affecting Mauna Kea. As the issues that swirl about our mauna are high profile there is no surprise that there are multiple bills that turned up in my search.

Four Wheel Drive Only
The back road around Puʻu Hau ʻOki to the summit of Mauna Kea
The bill does two things.. . It requires tour operators to operate with a state issued permit on two road ways, the roadway descending to the floor of Waipio Valley, and the access road to the summit of Mauna Kea. It also requires any vehicle on these same two roads to be only a “low gear four-wheel drive vehicle”.

It is this second provision that really caught my attention. This is something to look twice at and wonder what the effects of this particular legislation might be.

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Proposed Legislation

There are quite a few different bills proposed for this session of the Hawaii legislature that address astronomy and Mauna Kea. Of the more interesting there are proposals for an independant manangement body for the mauna, 4WD drive access to Mauna Kea and Waipio valley, addressing light pollution, and an audit of OMKM.

Mauna Kea Sunrise
Sunrise over Mauna Kea greets me on the morning commute.
As some of these proposals have a direct effect on the mauna and upon me personally I intend to address each of these proposals in blog posts. I also intend to submit testimony on these bills, reading and blogging on them will help.

Just added! (12Feb2018)

As usual for the Hawaii legislature there is occasionally both a house and senate version some of the bills. These must be reconciled in the end as they wend through the rather interesting process our state lege uses. Several of these have passed first reading, the first weeding out of bills in the process for this session.