Thursday | December 14, 2017
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Your Views for February 21

Can’t turn back time

My reaction to a recent letter about the Thirty Meter Telescope is: Would you rather be famous as an island for the latest Disneyland Resort or the most powerful telescope in the world?

Technology is already an integral part of our society. It would be pretty hard to live on this island without electricity, cars and, for some, their smart phones. We can work together to protect traditions and values going forward, but we cannot go back in time.

The Big Island was chosen as a preferred site for the TMT because of its location, pristine night sky conditions and low light pollution (alteration of light levels in the outdoor environment from man-made sources) on top of Mauna Kea.

A scientist and astronomer at the University of Hawaii, Dr. Richard Wainscoat, said in his lecture, “The Magnificent Night Sky: How to Protect It”: “You’re very lucky on this island, because you can still see this (the Milky Way), but you cannot see that from Oahu. It’s gone. It’s impossible to see from Oahu. It’s gone forever, probably.”

Science and research can help preserve our environment. In this case, astronomers will help preserve our night sky.

From the available information I’ve read, careful studies are being done to avoid impacting Native Hawaiian practices as well as long-term environmental studies. Will another telescope destroy the views to or from Mauna Kea? The TMT dome will be less than three times the size of the Keck dome occupying a 5-acre site — not a huge aesthetic change on the current landscape with its existing structures.

As a longtime Big Island resident, I have more concerns for the never-ending growth of paradise resorts and developments along the coast. In my opinion, their long-term adverse environmental impact and disregard for Hawaiian and local residents alike are far greater than any telescope could ever create.

Most of the pristine beaches and surf hangouts are now populated with concrete roads, gates, condos and hotels — some even denying access altogether, other than to their guests. Tourism brings money into our local economy but with a decreased quality of life to local residents and a high environmental cost.

Scientists — astronomers, in this case — want to take advantage of Mauna Kea’s prime location to study and better understand the universe. Their discoveries will benefit future generations here and elsewhere for years to come. Financial support for education, jobs and other opportunities will arise from the TMT being built here. It will boost our economy and open new avenues for our kids and theirs with something other than the tourism industry. Seems like a good idea.

No disrespect intended, but I cannot help to wonder if early Hawaiians, given their closeness with nature, along with their vast knowledge of it, would have objected to take a peek through this giant eye into the universe, if given the opportunity.

Mrs. Pua Case said in her letter, “It’s too big. The mauna is not just sacred, it’s connected, to all parts of the world. … To connect 18 stories to the top of the mauna, you gotta go down deep, and that hurts me.”

I’ll ask one question: Is there a bigger connection between all of us as human beings than the universe itself?

For more detailed information on the TMT, visit

I. Degroote



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