The arriving dark age: It appears that the protests in Hawaii that are preventing the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope might end up killing the telescope completely.
The problem is twofold. First, the Democratic-controlled government in Hawaii is willing to let the protesters run the show, essentially allowing a mob to defy the legal rulings of the courts:
The Native Hawaiian protesters blocking the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on the summit of Mauna Kea appear to have settled in for the long haul. After 2 months of protests, their encampment on the Mauna Kea access road has shops, a cafeteria, and meeting spaces. “It’s like a small village,” says Sarah Bosman, an astronomer from University College London who visited in July. “There are signs up all over the island. It was a bit overwhelming really.”
Second, there is opposition to the alternate backup site in the Grand Canary Islands, both from local environmental groups and from within the consortium that is financing the telescope’s construction.
Astronomers say that the 2250-meter-high site, about half as high as Mauna Kea, is inferior for observations. Canada, one of six TMT partners—which also include Japan, China, India, the California Institute of Technology, and the University of California—is especially reluctant to make the move and could withdraw from the $1.4 billion project, which can ill afford to lose funding. Finally, an environmental group on La Palma called Ben Magec is determined to fight the TMT in court and has succeeded in delaying its building permit. It says the conservation area that the TMT wants to build on contains archaeological artifacts. “They’re willing to fight tooth and nail to stop TMT,” says Thayne Currie, an astronomer at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.
We now live in a culture that is opposed to new knowledge. It is also a culture that prefers mob rule, giving power to the loudest and possibly most violent protesters, while treating the law as a mere inconvenience to be abandoned at the slightest whim of those mobs.
If this doesn’t define a dark age, I’m not sure what does.
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