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Bowing to the demands of about two dozen protesters, the governor of Hawaii has ordered a one week halt in the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea.
You can read statements from the governor, the protesters, and the telescope’s project manager here. Make sure especially you read the statement by the telescope manager, as it outlines in great detail the negotiations over the past seven years between the telescope and the local community. This project was not forced upon them. They discussed it and agreed to it. As the statement notes,
Following an appeal of the permit and further contested case proceedings, the TMT project has proceeded in full compliance with the law. The TMT site was selected with great care and respect. There are no archaeological shrines or burial sites within TMT’s project site. Comprehensive research by expert hydrologists confirm there is no threat to the aquifer.
This is the same story we’ve seen for the past half century with every telescope that has been built in territories where the local native population has some say in construction. Years of negotiation are ignored just as construction is about to begin by a small number of protesters demanding a halt. The protesters always claim a combination of religious and environmental concerns. In every case, these so-called passionate demands somehow vanish after they are promised some additional cash.
It would a terrible tragedy for Hawaii, and the human race, if this $1.4 billion telescope ends up getting canceled because of the complaints of a handful of people who to my mind are behaving like extortionists. It will also be unfortunate if the government bows to this extortion and rewards them for this behavior.