Letters | 4-18-14


Another telescope endangers aina

My letters have been published here before in regards to genetically modified organisms and the politics surrounding these issues. Today I am writing about a proposed 18-story, 8-acre telescope on Mauna Kea. Both issues impact our health and culture here in Hawaii.

Health Impacts: The top of any mountain, such as Mauna Kea, is a crucial part of the water table systems that flow from the mountains to the ocean. The proposed construction estimates it will excavate more than 64,000 cubic yards of the natural landscape, produce 120 to 250 cubic feet of solid waste a week, and use a 5,000-gallon underground tank to store hazardous chemicals. Hazardous materials such as elemental mercury, acids and solvents are used by the telescope industry. There have been several toxic mercury spills on the summit in this watershed, threatening to contaminate Hawaii’s most important groundwater resource. In addition, telescope-related human activity generates more than 50,000 gallons of human sewage each month, which seeps into the ground via septic tank-cesspools.

Cultural Impacts: First and foremost as a matter of respect and humility, but also because Hawaiians largely thrived in these islands sustainably without imported goods, we of European and other ancestries have much to learn from the Hawaiian culture and its practices. Long before Western telescopes, Hawaiians advanced navigation, astronomy and meteorology atop the summit of Mauna Kea. However, the many massive, multistoried telescopes now obstruct the horizon, interrupting traditional science and observation practices. Ancient wayfinding and celestial-mapping sites are at risk and many have already been destroyed, while constant noise disrupts the quiet peacefulness of the summit.

Currently there are court appeals in process to stop the proposed TMT telescope. Google search Sacred Mountain – Mauna Kea and follow Protect Mauna Kea on Facebook for more information.

Ben Cohn

Holualoa