UH Board of Regents holds ‘special meeting’ over TMT
HILO —Supporters sang, chanted, and held hands before a special meeting with The University of Hawaii Board of Regents in Hilo to discuss the management of Mauna Kea.
Speaker after speaker, many very involved in the movement to defend the mountain, talked about Mauna Kea's sacred grounds, calling the development "a war crime under international law."
“The University of Hawaii is abusing culture and values on the TMT which will be the tallest structure on the highest mountain in the most sacred mountain of the Pacific,” said one opponent.
But a handful of supporters from the scientific community also came out.
Astronomer Mark Chun not only touted Mauna Kea as the best place in the world to do this kind of research, but also pointed to what's already been achieved.
“My friends and family are excited about discoveries that are made at home and they recognize Mauna Kea as another reason why Hawaii is special,” said Chun, who works with the Institute of Astronomy at UH.
He said Mauna Kea scientists are credited with many technological developments people now take for granted, such as cell phone infra-red counterparts, image stabilization, and auto-focus.
“Astronomy has an impact on our knowledge of the skies, but it also has real tangible impacts on our daily lives,” he said.
Construction of the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope was supposed to start in early April.
Police arrested 31 people trying to stop it.
Gov. David Ige agreed to postpone construction until April 20th.
One protestor said he has proof the project has already damaged the mountain. “In the first four hours of construction and movement of equipment, we already have oil spills on the mountain,” he said, showing a picture of construction equipment atop Mauna Kea. The TMT Corporation just launched a new website in an effort to debunk misinformation and to make a case for its benefits.
It says the project will create 300 local and specialized construction jobs and employ another 140 to operate it.
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs will announce its findings at its next board meeting on April 23. It is discussing whether to change its position of support for the TMT.