If not TMT, then what?

There are more than a few of us examining our relationship with the mountain. The current controversy has any intelligent person asking hard questions of themselves. And like me, some express their thoughts in words. Hopefully words that resolve some questions. But other times all we have are questions.

The following is a guest post from Chris Stark. Thanks Chris!

A colorful sunset seen from the summit of Mauna Kea

If not TMT, then what?

I work as an IT professional in the astronomy community. For months now, my daily life has been assaulted by the phrase “‘A’ole TMT” scrawled all over people’s homes, vehicles, and businesses — I can’t seem to get away from that phrase. As frustrating as it can be for me to randomly encounter this sentiment, I understand people’s anger, frustration, and feelings of loss of identity. But there’s more at stake here than a telescope on a sacred mountain.

There are as many reasons WHY people oppose TMT as there are people actually opposed — and that is not a slight towards the opposition. Every person’s perspective is unique and personal, no matter whether in support or opposition to TMT. I have my own reasons for supporting TMT, and while they may echo many of the sentiments heard from the other supporters, as with everyone else, my mix of perspectives ends up giving me my own unique angle on all of this.

The reason “‘A’ole TMT” causes me so much frustration is that no one is presenting viable alternatives to TMT. Like it or not, something needs to breathe life into this stagnant, low-wage economy of Hawaii Island. We deserve better than what we currently have. We’re smart, talented, and hard-working. We’ve been through a lot together.

The opponents to TMT say “‘A’ole TMT!”, but to what do they say “‘Ae!”?

Who among us wants to work for an unfair low wage for tedious, mundane work with no room for advancement? Who among us wants our children to have the exact same lack of opportunities we have by choosing to stay in this place we call home?

The upcoming generations of Hawaii Island children are smart and skilled; they have bright futures, and many of them are going to work in technologically advanced fields — and no matter the field, technology has become a major component. The question is, are they going to work in these fields here at home, or are they going work in these fields somewhere else, likely not to return? The more we say “no” without providing an accompanying “yes” alternative, the more we are losing our best and brightest minds to the mainland and foreign countries.

I graduated from a Hawaii Island public high school in the early 1990s, and the vast majority of my friends left this island and now have lives elsewhere with no real motivation to ever return. I’m also of the age now where many of my colleagues have children ranging from primary school all the way to pushing closer to graduation from college and beyond. How many of my colleagues want to see their sons and daughters pack up and leave, never to return? How many of the opposition want to see their sons and daughters pack up and leave?

What is more damaging to the Hawaiian culture: a population working dead-end, slave-wage, jobs with no alternatives? A population thinly dispersed across the world with no physical connection to their homeland or family? Or a telescope on a sacred mountain top whose very goal is to bring heaven closer to earth?

We need the education, work force development, and jobs promised by TMT.

If “no” to TMT, then “yes” to what?

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

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