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New Hawaiian law takes control of Mauna Kea away from astronomers

A newly passed Hawaiian law has taken the management of the top of Mauna Kea away from the University of Hawaii and given it to a new community authority which will include many of the activists who have blocked the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).

The new Maunakea authority will include Native Hawaiians in decisions about how the mountain is managed, with an emphasis on mutual stewardship and protecting Maunakea for generations to come. The authority will have 11 voting members, one of whom must be an active practitioner of Native Hawaiian cultural traditions, and one of whom must be a descendant of a cultural practitioner who is associated with Maunakea. There are also spots for representatives drawn from astronomy, education, land management, politics and other fields.

“I’m very hopeful for the new entity,” says Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, a Native Hawaiian elder who has helped to lead road blocks on the mountain. “It is beyond my imagination of where we would be at this time, because we have fought so long to be heard.”

The University of Hawaii has managed most of the lands around the Maunakea summit since 1968, when the state granted it a 65-year lease to operate a scientific reserve focused on astronomy. Maunakea has ideal skies for astronomical observation, given its 4,200-metre height and its stable and dark night skies. The university now has to transfer all of its management duties, including a complex set of subleases, permits and other agreements, to the new authority by 1 July 2028. [emphasis mine]

From the beginning of the protesters against TMT I made several predictions, all of which are now coming true.

  • This is a power play by some activist protesters for money and power. The new law gives them that.
  • The Democratic Party that controls Hawaii utterly supports the protesters, and was working behind the scenes to aid them. The new law proves that.
  • TMT will never be built. This new law makes that prediction almost certain.
  • The real goal of the protesters will be the eventual shut down of all astronomy on Mauna Kea. This new law is the first step in that process.

Forget about TMT. It is dead, as are any new telescopes or upgrades on Mauna Kea. Sometime around 2028, when this new authority takes over, we shall begin to see demands for the removal of telescopes.

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  • Gealon

    Sounds like the coming dark ages as much as anything else.

    It’s time to shift to cheap, space based telescopes anyway. Give Starship year or so to get prove it’s self and we should just move astronomy off to world.

  • brightdark

    And the liberals/Dems say that conservative/Repubs are against science.

    I still can’t understand is the ‘why’ that these people are so intent on shutting down the telescopes. Is it that they want more donations to their causes or what.

  • sippin_bourbon

    The only real advances are going to be telescopes not on the surface of the Earth.
    Either orbital, or Lunar.

  • Jeff Wright

    Adam Corolla got in a spot of trouble calling them dumb. He’s been vindicated. Now to root for a nice seismic sea wave to scour them off the coast and start over.

  • DonM

    All religions are favored, except Christianity. Everyone has rights, except you. You will be made to care.

  • George Turner

    Maintaining good diplomatic relations with the volcano gods is just as important as science.

    We need to get some imam to build a mosque up there, claim the mountain as an Islamic holy site, and just let everybody go at each other.

  • HMCS(FMF) ret

    I thought that the D’s were all about “the science”?

    So much for that…

  • werewife

    I was watching the video of a panel of fantasy/horror writers that bore the title “A Cultural History of Ghost Stories” — sounds interesting, right? Seven minutes in, the panelists, four deeply unserious women, are clucking and chortling over the “progressive,” “exciting” innovation of the government of New Zealand in establishing actual legal status for the spirits of various locales. One can easily predict what their reaction would have been to, say, the government of Israel (or of one of these United States) legally acknowledging the Almighty Creator G-d as the sovereign of said land. Just saying.

  • mw

    No problems with Science here, just sacrifice a goat and read the entrails. Professor Lysenko has ruled the Democrat Party for decades now.

  • Jeff C

    I don’t get the “anti-science” comments on here. Ultimately this is a question of local land control, and who determines the proper use of the mountaintop. Why should the University of Hawaii control it, and why should they have the use authority? They have no more claim to it than anyone else, just because it happens to be good for their “science” doesn’t give them an entitlement to its use. They don’t own the land.

    This law was duly passed by the Hawaiian legislature as elected by the people of Hawaii. If they are unhappy with it they can elect new legislators and change the law. As a conservative it seems to me this is how a representative government is supposed to work, the scientists don’t get to override the will of the people for their pet project.

  • Jason

    All true Jeff C. There are plenty of examples of researchers pushing to exclude or restrict the public from their research areas, so I have little sympathy for the academics in general. What I find tragic about it is that the astronomy at least has some useful value. Anyone can go up there if they want, so no one is being excluded. Those who would shut down the telescopes would leave the land unused. There isn’t even an environment to protect up there. It is nothing but rocks and winter snow.

  • Spectrum Shift

    I can see the item description on EBAY now. “Large, used telescope for sale. Mirror needs cleaning. Price negotiable. Buyer assumes all liability for fragile components. Local pickup only. 10% mountain Gods surcharge paid by seller”

    I am sure the “New Hawaiin” law would have included language to codify the annual maidan sacrifice if Mauna Kea was still active. And, how about those post cards showing telescopes deployed on the mountain top, bearing the postal mark from the Mauna Kea visitors center? Collect all six before they’re gone.

    The JWST, I call it the Webble, is another step towards space based astronomy. The Hawaiians’ have just pushed foundation funding decisions off the fence into this future.

  • Tim Kyger

    Mr. Z, you are utterly correct (alas). TMT: dead, dead, dead. 2028: Keck, etc: dead, dead, dead.

  • Jeff Wright

    Comedy gold:

    On my show I said ‘Name me one great Hawaiian inventor. Look around the house, find me the light bulb, the automobile, or the toaster and tell me what great Hawaiian invented it’ and no one could come up with an answer. I was resting my case, which is there’s differences in people and differences in cultures. Sometimes it’s math skills and sometimes its vertical leap and sometimes its putting a pig in the ground.

    And my job, as a commentator on life, is to find those differences and point them out. And it’s not to say that the guy who’s good in math is better than the guy who puts the pig in the ground, I’m just here to tell you they’re different. You can decide which ones better or worse — and a matter a fact I’d rather be the guy who puts the pig in the ground than the guy crunching numbers, the guy with the pig is enjoying himself more – and yes, I did call Hawaiians stupid on my radio show but people should try to do 3, 4 hours of radio a day unscripted.

    You don’t drive into work thinking ‘I’m going to call Hawaiians stupid today’. It’s like a girl calls in and she’s like ‘I’m dating this guy from Hawaii and he tried to change the tire on my car and the car caught on fire’ and I’m like ‘well, Hawaiians are stupid’ and the next thing I know we have a problem on our hands. But, really, if your kid has a bad heart valve and they need surgery and you’ve got a Japanese doctor, an Indian doctor, a Jewish doctor, or a Hawaiian doctor which one are you picking? Then explain to me why.


  • pzatchok

    Well someone gets to clean up the sight now.

    As soon as the old equipment is deemed obsolete they will lock the doors and bulldoze the building.
    Even if the old mirrors could be improved with new electronics they will argue to have them shutdown instead.
    Inside the next ten years nothing will be left up there.

  • Stephen Signer

    Eppur si muove

  • George C

    All that equipment got moved up the hill, it can be packed up and moved down the hill and put on ship to someplace. Nepal?

  • Edward

    Jeff C wrote: “I don’t get the “anti-science” comments on here. … This law was duly passed by the Hawaiian legislature as elected by the people of Hawaii. If they are unhappy with it they can elect new legislators and change the law.

    This is the point. Hawaii used to be in favor of science and astronomy, which is why they allowed the observatories in the first place. Now they are anti science and are giving over control to people who do not favor science as much as Hawaiians once did.

    Who knows the needs of astronomy better than the astronomers? It isn’t the laymen who are being put in charge. Did the astronomers do a poor job of land management? No. They treated the area with respect. Those who are being put in charge fought against an improved telescope not because it would have despoiled the land but because they could. They grabbed power, and the population of Hawaii has allowed it.

    George C wrote: “All that equipment got moved up the hill, it can be packed up and moved down the hill and put on ship to someplace. Nepal?

    If it were that simple, then TMT would not be dead. The astronomers spent the past decade looking for alternate sites, and if they can’t find a site for a better telescope, why would we think that they can find sites for old telescopes? The beauty of this site is that it is excellent seeing, easy to access and in a climate-friendly environment.

    I can only wonder how much the astronomers’ complaints about low Earth orbit constellations influenced this decision. Why should Hawaii support earth-based astronomy if it is going to be obsolete in a couple of years anyway?

  • Jeff Wright

    Just need a “fixer” like Mike from Breaking Bad to break up their luau

  • Tony

    So I live in Hawaii and have watched the reaction to TMT and have listened to native Hawaiians and their attitudes towards it so my observations are this has nothing to due with money and power, it has everything to do with the native Hawaiians believe pretty much anything not Hawaiian is bad on top of it they hate any change and they make everything sacred… And they are extremely vocal, this isnt lead by any political leader, its the people themselves within this group that are extremely vocal and very radical, the political leaders twist in the wind to please them…

  • Michael

    Good thing Nimitz did what he did when he did.

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