Another Setback for the Thirty Meter Telescope

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by aaronvan, Dec 4, 2015.

  1. aaronvan Suspended

    aaronvan

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    #1
    This is starting to make me very angry.

     
  2. mrkramer macrumors 603

    mrkramer

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    #2
    If what is already there is hurting the local environment and culture then we shouldn't do it.

    Other than possibly a few temporary construction jobs how is this project helping the local people there?
     
  3. OLDCODGER macrumors 6502a

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    #3
    It's long past time that we got rid of all fakery.
     
  4. monokakata, Dec 4, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2015

    monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    #4
    Well . . . I was born and raised and live within 40 miles of the TMT's site and know the area well.

    It's a real mess. Neither the TMT nor the observatories already up there are hurting the environment in any way. Last spring a huge quantity of misinformation went out -- all has been thoroughly debunked, especially the indigenous species argument and the water table/aquifer argument. Absolutely nothing to them.

    There is no single set of opponents. Instead, many groups are piggybacking their complaints and strategies onto the TMT issue. In my experience (I know some of the protesters personally) it's mainly all about Hawaiian Kingdom issues -- the environmental and economic issues are cover for that.

    There's so much misinformation that no single post I write can cover it. Here's a sample of reasons given for opposing the TMT: "star wars," it's a weapon in fact; it's a profit-making venture, it's not needed because we have Hubble; all the telescopes are doing the same work with the same equipment so why do we need another; there's no point to trying to understand the universe and perhaps its origin because, hey, our myths explain that perfectly well, and on and on and on.

    There's constant talk about "sacred," which to me is the kind of thing that Samuel Johnson (or someone) said about patriotism: it's the last refuge of a scoundrel. Yes, the mountain is believed to be sacred by some number of native Hawaiians. That's certainly true. It's also certainly true that it's only since the TMT thing blew up (remember, it's been in the making for a decade) earlier this year that there were actually people wanting to go to the summit and pray. Otherwise . . . not in the past. It's political praying, in my opinion. And BTW, I'm an anthropologist.

    The anti forces are complately anti-science -- don't take my word for it; go look at their sites. When one of the main guys was asked to respond to all the hydrologists who say there's no chance of acquifer pollution, he said that the scientists were stupid and knew nothing. (BTW the supposed risk to the aquifer is from a 5,000 gallon holding tank that will have sewage and misc. chemicals in it and is meant to be pumped out routinely.) The guy speaking has a high school education, so far as I know.

    The protesters I know do not actually know the mountain itself. They know the road to a visitor's center and to the summit. They are not involved in the many, many volunteer and state and county projects such as reforestion and habitat work, the removal of invasive species, and so on. They don't appear to care about that at all.

    At one point, a couple of years ago, in a court case that the TMT won, the opponents asked the judge if they could swear in a little girl, because a mountain spirit spoke only through her. The judge refused, saying that he didn't exactly know how to swear in a spirit. That's typical. Can't have the TMT because some spirit says no.

    Why want it? Jobs are part of it, but also you have to realize that the Big Island is a serious backwater. When I was growing up, in the 1950s, every smart or ambitious kid who could get the hell out did, because there was just nothing here. I got out and didn't come back for nearly 50 years. The school system is terrible; the TMT is going to pour well over $1M into the system each year. The astronomy community is upping its outreach game, hoping to identify the smart kids who can go far, and helping them. And of course trying to raise the general level of the educational system.

    For me -- beyond all the things I've written, I like it that my island is home to some things that are totally world-class. Outside of astronomy and volcanoes, that's about it for us. We haven't got a lot here.

    Finally, what happened this week was very specific: the Supreme Court held that the DLNR (Dep't Lands and Natural Resources) should not have issued the final permit while there was still a contested case pending. OK, so now we wait for the outcome of the contested case. And then they can issue the permit. Indeed DLNR should not have done that, but hey -- in Hawai'i we follow the "ready, shoot, aim" pattern more than we should.

    It's worth noting that the opponents have not won a single legal victory before this one, and this is a very, very limited victory.

    Anyway. I'll stop.
     
  5. OLDCODGER macrumors 6502a

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    #5

    Thank you very much for your post. It's always good to hear from someone who knows what they are talking about.

    Hopefully, sanity prevails - for once.
     
  6. monokakata, Dec 5, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2015

    monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    #6
    I woke up this morning to this article in the local paper:

    http://hawaiitribune-herald.com/news/local-news/ag-says-trucks-can-stay

    Pisciotta is one of the protest leaders. Note that she twice declares that the TMT's location is a burial area. This is absolutely, completely false. One of the leading Pacific archaeologists surveyed the entire summit area and found evidence for 3-5 burials but -- and this is the important part -- not only were none of them anywhere near the approximately 2 acres that the TMT will occupy, but the ancient Hawaiians are well-known to have buried their dead on the slopes of cinder cones (whenever they did bury anybody at high altitude). There are no burials on the flat areas, which is where the TMT is to be constructed. Therefore not only have no burials been found, on strong evidence they never will be found, for the reason I gave.

    Note the ritual complaint about leaking fuel. It's unsubstantiated, but that's not the point. During the height of the protests, the protestors drove all sorts of vehicles up into the high altitudes, without cleaning them first. They (and there were many of them) did not appear to understand that vehicles carry insects, plant material, and all sorts of biological entities with them. The protestors took lowland rocks to the high elevations without sterilizing them, and it's certainty that those rocks brought up invaders.

    For example, the protestors brought a lowland ant species to high altitude where it did not exist. If you're not an ecologist, that might not seem like a big thing. But if you are, it is: an aggressive insect species in an ecosystem that did not previously have ants at all. Protestors took lowland plants to high elevations, and left them there. And on and on.

    My point is that the protestors continue to get a lot of mileage out of what, frankly, are lies. This has been going on for a long time, and will no doubt continue.

    If anybody wants links to the EIS and the archaeological survey, I can provide them (or google can).

    I wouldn't have posted again except for today's article.
     
  7. aaronvan thread starter Suspended

    aaronvan

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    #7
  8. velocityg4 macrumors 68040

    velocityg4

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    #8
    I'm just curious why Mauna Kea is such an ideal location for this telescope. Wouldn't light pollution from the islands inhabitants detract too much from it. Is it too far from the city to be an issue?

    I'd think there would be better mountain locations in Alaska or Canada far away from civilization offering a far crisper view of the night sky. Assuming the logistics for such a location isn't too costly.
     
  9. OLDCODGER macrumors 6502a

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    #9
    Hight - putting the scopes above the clouds and inversion layer, giving dry, stable, pollution-free air. Considered one of the best sites on the planet for observation across the spectrum, and local legislation limits night lighting.
     
  10. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    #10
    Oldcodger nailed it. There's a kind of laminar airflow across the mountain that keeps the atmosphere quite stable and dry (averages about 9" of precipitation per year at the summit).

    And there are infrastructure/maintenance issues that are very favorable as opposed to mountain sites in colder climates or more remote sites. The observatories are 1-2 hours drive from two large airports, one deep-water and one shallow-water ports. On the Big Island, you can get from 0 to 13,800' in about an hour, if you want to. The usual telecommunications resources are available. There's redundant fiber running up the mountain, so the actual observatories need minimal staff at altitude (somebody, and it's not too hard to guess who, cut one of the fiber cables during the upheavals last spring, but that was easily worked around).

    Sometimes the summit road is impassable because of snow, but that never lasts very long. Yes, there are snowplow drivers on the Big Island.

    If you want to see one side of the island's lights (on my side, the east side) you can go here:

    http://www.cfht.hawaii.edu/en/gallery/cloudcams/index.php?opts=still

    the cloud cam operates only at night. The lights are Hilo, and the street lights put out a part of the spectrum that's minimally troublesome for the telescopes. There's a shift to LED street lighting happening now, also as non-intrusive as possible.

    At the CFHT site I linked to, check out "Best of" for some spectacular shots of lightning storms.

    I might as well say now that I haven't been meaning to write as though there are no problems and that there haven't been any missteps on the part of the state government and the Univ of Hawai'i (the entity in charge of the observatory leases at the summit). There have been. It hasn't been operated as well as it might have been, and not all the decisions have been carefully made (I'm speaking about all the observatories and the last 40+ years). Nevertheless, the history is not nearly as bad as the opponents are saying. Not even close.
     
  11. CmdrLaForge macrumors 68040

    CmdrLaForge

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    #11
    A blog about astronomy that I quite respect and enjoy is startswithabang:

     
  12. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    #12
    I looked at that blog. It's interesting but the blogger has picked up some misinformation and misinterpretations along the way. The land and land rights situation in Hawai'i is complex and always has been. This isn't the place to describe it.

    The quoted sentence is just very sloppily-worded. "Generations of wrongs," implies an ongoing series of wrongs, and that's off the mark. There isn't any doubt that the US behaved very badly -- wrongly -- in annexing the Kingdom, back in the 1890s.

    The sentence implies that the wrongs have to do with the telescopes, and I don't think that's accurate. The Univ. of Hawai'i put the first telescope up there towards the end of the 1960s, and the others followed. I'd have to look it up, but I think that last one was Subaru (nothing to do with the car company) in the 1990s.

    It's important to recognize that no one cared very much about the upper regions on Mauna Kea until recently. When I worked for the state dep't of wildlife (it had a different name than it does now) my working partner and I were often the only people on all on Mauna Kea above perhaps the 7,500' level, which is to say above the ranches and the US Army training grounds. On weekends there were hunters, but they were never above roughly 10,000'. There was nobody up high. In fact, you couldn't get even to what's now the Visitor Center at Hale Pohaku without getting a key to open a locked gate.

    It's true that the Univ of Hawai'i leased land (in total, less than about 1,000 acres) to the observatories for $1/year. At the time, no one complained. The observatories are, after all, non-profit research organizations run in the main by universities. We're not talking about handing over land rights to commercial enties.

    It's not as though a high-altitude desert has commercial value. I'd challenge anybody to defend (in economic/commercial terms) the statement "for far less than it's worth." It's hardly prime hotel land. You couldn't even get there except on foot until about 1965 (and I made that trek to the summit many times as a boy).

    As for "violating the original contract," I really don't know what's being referenced there.

    When the TMT started its exploratory negotiations, I hoped that the various parties (University, State, Hawaiian Affairs) would really hold the TMT's feet to the fire, for money and support on the island. They did, and the current crop of protestors had little or nothing to do with that. As the blog points out, the TMT's lease (for fewer than 10 acres, I believe, though I'd have to check) is for many hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly, and the TMT is committed to paying roughly $2 million into education each year. I applauded that at the time and still do.

    Just one more thing, to show interested readers how very strange this commotion all is. Back as far as WW II, the military had a presence in the "Saddle" area between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. In the 1950s, the lands they held became the Pohakuloa Training Area. The PTA has steadily expanded both its area and the kinds of training done there. A few years ago they dramatically extended their area by buying land from Parker Ranch. There was always a small airstrip; not long ago, the Army began asking for permission to expand it so that they could land C-17 transports there and avoid having to bus the troops from the large international airport at Kona, which is no more than an hour away. The Saddle is enviromentally and culturally sensitive and so running very large military transports in and out of the PTA is just nuts. I regularly walk the Saddle Road from Hilo up the Saddle and down the other side. When I'm doing that I'm not in a car with the windows rolled up, so I'm aware of what's going on. Helicopters, Ospreys, trucks and armored vehicles, live fire with heavy weapons including rockets, and not long ago they were asking for permission to fly F18s from Oahu on bombing/rocketry runs. Yeah, let's fly F18s over a sensitive environment, low level, and drop bombs. That hasn't happened yet, though. The regular bombardment is night and day.

    OK. So within a few miles of the observatories, whose environmental footprints are very, very small, we have a very large active military training area, in which operations are on Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa both (though less on Mauna Kea). There are thousands of troops (it varies of course) that create sewage and need water, that spill fuel and munitions, create serious noise and air pollution, move plants around (the military is responsible for the invasion of Mullein onto Mauna Kea; it was not there before the 1970s), bomb the crap out of the volcano goddess Pele's mountain, and so on and so on.

    Nobody is actively protesting this except the anti-war folks. The "defenders" of Mauna Kea let this all go, preferring to attack a small science preserve and leave a huge military training area alone. Think about that.
     

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