Given my interactions with various protesters I have wondered just what information is exchanged in the camp privately among those who have been living there. I wonder how that information has shaped their views and driven the core of the Kia’i movement.
My worry is that the camp is serving as an environment where a more extreme stance in this controversy can be created and thrive.
The recipe for this is simple… Take a number of people that already share the same views, isolate them together, and bring in speakers and teachers that amplify the message. The result of this process is well understood in human psychology.
One of the common statements from those in the camp, one repeated over and over, is to come on up and live in the camp, only then you will understand.
There is a developing maintenance situation at Gemini, a cooling system is failing putting very valuable equipment at risk. To deal with Gemini sought and received permission from both the state and the protesters to send a crew up that mauna to perform emergency maintenance.
Long story short, the protesters failed to honor their agreement today…
At approximately 7:45 a.m. on Tuesday, July 23, a car containing technicians from Gemini Observatory was stopped by activists from entering the Maunakea Access Road. The observatory had been assured access the previous day in conversation with law enforcement, and the Office of Maunakea Management. Despite prior public statements indicating observatory technicians would not be denied access to the telescopes, activists today contradicted their earlier position. Activists told observatory personnel that without a formal, public letter from the observatories – supporting activists’ demands of the state – access for critical technical maintenance is no longer supported.
Upon initial approach, the car of technicians was initially waived through the bamboo gate; the driver stopped to speak with an official from the Office of Maunakea Management, at which point a kupuna approached the car, stating that access was not to be allowed. Five additional activists then moved to stand in front of the car. This denial of access was contrary to the understanding of access approval by the Gemini crew members and the individual who had initially opened the gate.
The car of technicians respectfully pulled to the side of the road at the request of the activists and waited for approximately 45 minutes. During that time, activist leaders indicated that they were working to determine whether the technicians should be allowed access.
Eventually, the Gemini crew members elected to turn back, given the uncertainty of eventual access. The crew was flagged down on their way away from the access point with an appeal from activists to continue to wait. The crew stopped to speak with the activists briefly before continuing to the Gemini base facility in Hilo.
The Maunakea Observatories continue to support the efforts of state and county law enforcement to restore safe and reliable access to the access road.
About the planned technical work at Gemini Observatory today: Gemini Observatory uses gaseous helium in a cooling circuit to maintain stable low temperatures for two highly-delicate instruments used in astronomical observations. The cooling system has become unstable, which requires specialized technicians to shut down in order to prevent damage to the instruments and the cooling circuit itself.
The observatory personnel planned to shut off the compressors, move one instrument at risk to a separate cooling circuit, shut down the second, disconnect specific joints in the cooling system, and perform a standard facility inspection that is usually conducted on a daily basis during normal operations. The planned technical work would have taken approximately three hours; the crew would have then come directly back to their Hilo base facility.
Official statement from the Maunakea Observatories
On social media the protesters are trying to deny the event, claiming that the state is truly responsible. This is contradicted by the statements of the protest’s official spokesman who put his account of the incident into his daily video report.
In the report Kahoʻokahi Kanuha makes it clear that he was attempting to negotiate with the maintenance crew, asking for a statement supporting the protesters. The crew has no authority to negotiate, no authority to make statements or agreements for others. When this occurred they left as it was clear the protesters had failed to honor their agreements.
The observatories that call Mauna Kea home have written an open letter to the community expressing our position on the ongoing events in our local community…
Aloha to our scientific colleagues around the world,
On behalf of the more than 500 people employed by the Maunakea Observatories, we offer a perspective about the Maunakea situation with the sincere hope that our words encourage greater understanding of the complex circumstances in which we find ourselves.
Staff members of the Maunakea Observatories, many of whom are born and raised in Hawaiʻi, feel a deep and personal connection to the special people and place of our Hawai‘i Island home. We live and work together in a community where our success is measured by the quality of our relationships, one of the paramount reasons life here is enriching, rewarding and inspiring. Even in conflict, our differences don’t define us; our humble, reverent appreciation of our community does. The diverse mix of scientists, technicians, engineers, administrators, and students of the Maunakea Observatories continually seek a path forward that strengthens the future of our island community. Our local staff, family members, and friends have a wide range of views and strong feelings about the events that surround us. We deeply respect all these viewpoints, which come from our family and friends, and we both believe and champion their right to express them.
In our community, we are weathering the pain of rifts in these carefully tended relationships that will take mutual respect and time to heal. We know these challenges across our island home have gained attention with our peers in the international astronomy community. We understand your expressed concerns. We also urge your appreciation of the nuances and complexity of the issues we now face.
The future of Maunakea astronomy will be defined primarily by the diverse people of Hawaiʻi. The vast majority of island residents support the Maunakea Observatories, who have been part of this community for more than 50 years. Conflict about the Thirty Meter Telescope does not change the long-standing support our Observatories have earned, but it will undoubtedly influence its future. For the benefit of the people who work on the mountain, for those who practice their culture and religion on the mountain, we look to a future beyond coexistence because that still implies barriers. We look to a future in which knowledge and worldviews hybridize to create a reality more beautiful and resilient than its progenitors.
This is beginning already, through A Hua He Inoa, the interstellar asteroid ‘Oumuamua, black hole Pōwehi, and the unusual asteroids recently officially named Kamo‘oalewa and Ka‘epaoka‘awela by Hawaiian students. We look to a future for Maunakea where studies of the universe are buoyed by the wisdom of Hawaiian kupuna and grounded in the richness of Hawaiian culture. We are nurturing this future now as devoted members of the Hawaiʻi Island and international astronomy communities. We ask for the informed understanding and support of our international astronomy community to uphold this vision, which we believe will be an important part of everyone’s future.
Director Doug Simons, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Director Pierre Martin, Hoku Kea Observatory Director Jennifer Lotz, Gemini Observatory Director Paul Ho, James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (East Asian Observatory) Interim Director Robert McLaren, Institute for Astronomy Director John Rayner, NASA Infrared Telescope Facility Director Michitoshi Yoshida, Subaru Telescope Director Klaus Hodapp, UKIRT Director Hilton Lewis, W.M. Keck Observatory (Keck I and Keck II)
You almost certainly know by now, the Thirty Meter Telescope will restart construction this coming Monday. It was announced in a live press conference Monday from the governor’s office. At 7am Monday, July 15th, the Mauna Kea Access Road will be closed to permit the passage of heavy equipment.
With this both sides are preparing for the coming confrontation. The protesters are rallying the troops, the state and county have had the response plans in place for a while.
Meanwhile the observatories prepare to get jammed in the middle. We have cancelled planned maintenance operations and stationed a minimum crew in the dorms at Hale Pohaku, just a few guys to keep the telescopes on-sky if the road is impassable due to the protests.
There are already a few protesters on the mauna, a few vehicles at Puʻu Huluhulu, a few to be seen along the summit road. It appears that the larger gatherings will occur over the weekend.
It appears both side expect the action to be at the Mauna Kea Access Road and Saddle Road junction rather than at Hale Pohaku like last time. The plan seems to be forcing the protesters further down the mountain. Actually that is a good plan, safer for everyone protesters included with good road access adjacent to Saddle Road, lower in elevation.
Personally? I was scheduled to go up next week, I cancelled that, opting to go up this Friday to get a last few things done. I may possibly take a turn as part of the minimal crew staying on the mauna for a few days depending on the protests and the ability of law enforcement to keep the road open.
There will be protests, that much is clear. Beyond that certainty there is no certainty. When? How big? How long? We just do not know, it is likely no one does.
As we prepare for the restart of construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, those of us whose lives revolve around the mauna can only guess and prepare best we can.
While there is news of plans at the state and county level to deal with the protests, there is little information on the details in those plans. Both sides are keeping their cards close. We are given to understand that the county will be the lead agency it is clear that there will be state support.
In the wake of the supreme court decision on the TMT conservation district use permit last month, many like myself have been reading the opinions of the court. I was pleased to see that the justices were very clear in their views, there is very little room for any future legal steps in this case. This decision sets clear precedents for future land use cases that will certainly occur over the same issues.
The majority opinion is a systematic refutation of each argument made by telescope opponents. This is particularly true in the numerous trivial matters that opponents attempted to inflate into major issues. Issues like Judge Amanoʻs ʻImiloa membership, or the brevity of some responses to the absolute snowstorm of submissions in the contested case.
In addition to the majority opinion you may read the quite interesting concurring opinion by Justice Pollack. He agrees with the majority on the final result, but promotes using existing frameworks to judge land use cases such as this. It is also interesting the dissenting Justice Wilson joins in this concurring opinion, at least for the first three parts.
The dissent written by Associate Justice Michael Wilson was published almost two weeks later than the majority opinion. The reason for this delay is not given, it is possibly a result of Justice Wilson analyzing the majority opinion and responding to it in his dissent.
As is often the case with decisions like this, it is more interesting to read the dissent than the majority opinion. Any flaws or weaknesses in the case can be examined and can be more informative. This case is an exception to that, the dissent is interesting, if for somewhat different reasons.
Mid-morning the awaited news found me… The Hawaii State Supreme Court has upheld the conservation district use permit for the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.
We had been waiting for this decision for some time. Based on the usual length of time the court takes to decide a case the decision should have appeared well over a month ago.
To no one’s surprise, the court took a little longer with this particular case. A case fraught with many questions that are hotly debated in this state.
The news quickly fueled a firestorm of mainstream media articles across the country and social media postings. The pro-telescope communities I participate in were celebrating. Opponents were decrying the decision with responses that range from disbelief to inflammatory.
Mid-afternoon found me atop the Keck 2 dome to check on some instrumentation. From there I had a perfect vantage point to look down upon the TMT site on the north plateau. I stopped to consider what those few acres of rock below had cost so far in terms of time and passion.
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.
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.
We are now in March, looking back to October when the TMT contested case began. Five months of hearings endlessly repeating the same details about every aspect of the case.
Yes… My patience has run out long ago.
After all that has been said and done it is clear that the actual substance of the case could have been thoroughly discussed in a couple weeks, not five months.
Among the endless hours of testimony there have been occasional moments of fireworks. We have heard wild theories, mangled science, inexcusable ignorance, evidence of unemployment claims fraud, and several very likely incidents of outright perjury by telescope opponents.
The construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope has become a symbol of the many issues that swirl in these islands. It is an argument that touches the fundamental question as to who we are and where we are going.
While many frame the argument as one between science and culture, others frame it as one of development versus culture. Their premise is that somehow building another telescope is destroying local culture. They overlook the opportunity the telescopes represent, that the right economic development can support a community, preserve a culture.
Supporters of TMT highlight the jobs that the telescope will bring… “It is not about the jobs!” is the reply from opponents. Of course it is. You cannot maintain a culture in poverty. You cannot maintain a culture when your keiki leave to seek opportunity elsewhere. Leave the island behind… Leave the culture behind. Economic struggle is the greatest single threat to a local culture, a threat that cannot be overstated.
The lack of economic opportunity has an enormous impact on a local community. The stress of struggling for a living, of getting by on a low paying service industry job can be destructive to families and individuals. Drugs use, family abuse, all of the social ills so often identified in low income areas are as destructive to the culture as they are to the person. The statistics tell the story… Hawai’i Island routinely tops rest of the state in numbers that are not good…. Lowest per capita income, highest number of children living in poverty, unemployment and more.