Why We Shouldn't Build the 30-Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea

mahalia science nerds it's time

to talk about what's happening in

America's beautiful 50th state Hawaii as

you may know Hawaii is made up of a

series of volcanoes which makes it

perfect for observing the universe at

least from the vantage point of one of

the volcanoes that's not currently

spewing hot lava that's why people are

currently attempting to build a

brand-new telescope on Mauna Kea the

dormant volcano that is the biggest one

on the Big Island

it's called the thirty meter telescope

or TMT so named because of its big-ass

reflector that's going to allow

astronomers to view the universe at

thirteen times the resolution of the

Hubble I say they're attempting to build

it because currently other people are

protesting the telescope and blocking

construction vehicles from entering the

build site it's now a whole big thing so

let's dig into what's happening exactly

note that when I'm talking about this I

use the general word people people are

trying to build and people are

protesting that's because it's really

easy to make the mistake of

misidentifying the sides saying that

scientists are trying to build the

telescope and Native Hawaiians are

protesting the telescope which isn't

fair because there are a lot of

scientists protesting and there are

Native Hawaiians who support the TMT and

there are people who are shockingly both

scientists and Native Hawaiians and they

have their own feelings about it if you

make that initial mistake that makes you

more likely and when I say you I mean if

you are a skeptic or a science

enthusiast like I am it makes it more

likely that you may easily fall into the

trap of saying that being one side is

about pursuing you know the noble

pursuit of exploring our universe and

that the other side is some hippy dippy

religious one side is about

facts and one side is about feelings

that's wrong and dumb and to learn why

let's go into the

the actual facts back in the 1960s

scientists first came to Mauna Kea to

see how good it was for observing and

the answer was super good

because of a few things one its high

elevation of 14,000 feet another it's

dry conditions and three it's

predictable wind patterns oh and for the

fourth reason why it's so good is

because America owned it in the sense

that we invaded a sovereign Kingdom

queendom set up permanent military bases

created a coup and then annexed Hawaii

against its will the will of the people

about 60 years prior to this and we made

it an official state a few years prior

to this prior to scientist discovering

Mauna Kea

how convenient so universities and the

military started building observatories

on the mountain yes Mauna Kea is sacred

to Native Hawaiians and is extremely

important to the ecosystem including to

the production of fresh clean water

resources but they wanted observatories

there so they built them without

bothering so much with things like

permits or environmental impact studies

they built several telescopes and then

they gave themselves permits for them a

decade or so later and then they kept

building and building by 1998 the Hawaii

state auditor reported that Mauna Kea

had been mismanaged for 30 years at that

point bringing attention to the obvious

need for a master plan that would

protect the land that would figure out

which telescopes could be decommissioned

and makes sure that any new construction

was done competently that didn't happen

right away to more telescopes were built

before University of Hawaii finally did

draft a master plan in the year 2000

that plan would allow for 40 new

telescopes so they decided to go ahead

and build eight more by 2002 bringing

the number 213 operating telescopes in

2005 NASA was looking to construct the

Keck outrigger tell us

scopes but they were asked to first do

an environmental impact report that

report found that 30 years of

astronomical activity had caused and I

quote significant substantial and

adverse harm to Mauna Kea there had been

numerous spills of hazardous materials

like mercury and solvents there had been

overflowing trash that had to be

airlifted off the mountain the

scientists had well and truly

that mountain up NASA after coming out

with that report decided to withdraw

funding for that project there's a lot

more in this history that I've skipped

over for time you can read up on it if

you'd like but that's a pretty decent

overview of what's been going on up

until the point where we come to the TMT

the thirty meter telescope would be the

largest telescope built on the mountain

and Hawaiians are being assured that it

will be environmentally safe that it

will produce zero waste they are assured

that this will be the last telescope

built on pristine land on the mountain

and that any new telescope would have to

take over the footprint of a previous

telescope all of that sounds great but

if you were a native Hawaiian living at

the foot of that mountain and you had

seen 50 years more or less of

construction fifty years of Lies of

broken promises of a complete lack of

concern for the environment on the part

of the people who stole your people's

land and built things without permission

would you believe them would you say oh

I'm sure this time they're telling the

truth and it's going to be different I

actually do think that at least these

scientists though not necessarily the

funding organizations and the

politicians who want this telescope

built have good intentions and plan to

hold true to their promises but even if

they are even if that is true they're

not the sole people in charge of what's

going to happen accidents happen

changes of government happen funding

changes happen and looking at the

history of this land can you truly and

honestly say that when things go

someone at the top is going to be

looking out for Native Hawaiians I can't

say that so far in this video I focused

mostly on the recent history of Hawaii

and the environmental impact of

construction because I know that most

people in my audience are atheists and

skeptics but it is worth noting that

Mauna Kea is also culturally and

spiritually significant Native Hawaiians

astronomy isn't the only science that


anthropology matters to studying the

Stars is just as important as studying

humanity and so it's worth noting that

even if you do not believe in Native

Hawaiian spirituality they see Mauna Kea

as a sacred mountain where Chiefs are

buried and legends took place that is

worth something it's worth something to

them and it's worth something to

humanity as a whole because we should be

valuing these cultures if Mauna Kea were

literally the only place in the world

where you could build this telescope

then maybe I would agree that it'd be

worth trying to make a deal but it's not

this telescope would also fit very

nicely in the Canary Islands for

instance but Mauna Kea is easier for the

people who don't actually care about

Mauna Kea because we own the land

already maybe there was a time when

thoughtful scientists could have sat

down with Native Hawaiians and hammered

out a way to build this telescope with

minimum environmental and cultural

impact and I'm sure that many of the

Native Hawaiians who are scientists

would agree with that

Polynesians were studying the Stars and

using them to navigate their ships five

millennia ago Native Hawaiians value

education and astronomy just as much as

if not more than many other cultures but

the time to do that would have been

before fifty years of colonization and

lying and environmental and cultural

destruction with the TMT funders are

hoping to just

skate by without ever proving that

they've changed that times have changed

that their values have changed if a

friend constantly asked to borrow money

from you and never ever pays you back

why would you believe them the

fourteenth time that they asked if they

really have changed they'll show it

they'll make good on their previous

promises first and only then will you

know that you can trust their future

promises so if you want to read up more

on the TMT and on the protests check out

cahaya the Hawaiian environmental

alliance link is in the notes they need

your support

especially now that protesters are being

arrested by police and military forces

who are cracking down on them and if

anything at the very least we can all

agree that the military probably

shouldn't be involved in a conflict

between the government and a group of

people wishing to practice their culture

and protect their environment