It’s taken seven years, but opponents to the Thirty Meter Telescope have finally found a venue where legal issues related to building such a monstrous structure in an area set aside for conservation can be debated honestly and fairly. . . and that venue is, surprisingly, a narrow crosswalk 9,000 feet above sea level on the very slopes of the sacred landscape they hope to protect.

One would think the laws protecting Hawaii’s most special places would prevail in a more convenient location. One would hope they would have a bearing far sooner in the process. But the sad truth is, each time the issue was raised according to the rules governing the process, the individuals entrusted with administering those laws chose to set them aside and grant favorable decisions based instead on politics.

TMT Mauna Kea protest sign

Protesters near the site of the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea on the Big Island.


And so the project proceeded on faulty legal grounds; and so concerned citizens are compelled to take the law into their own hands; and so the issue has arrived at the court of public opinion, where you, good people, shall make your own determination.

Consider the facts:

  1. The summit of Mauna Kea lies within a conservation district.  Because it is so unique, this designation affords it unusual protections for the purpose of conserving it, as is, in perpetuity.
  2. State agencies regulating activities in conservation districts do have the authority to allow construction in them, but only if the proposed project meets eight criteria. The law is very clear in this regard . . . each and every one of the eight criteria must be met.
  3. One of the eight criteria is that the proposed project cannot have an impact on the environment.
  4. The Thirty Meter Telescope, if built, will be 18 stories tall and the size of seven football fields.  A structure this size cannot be placed on the slope of a mountain.  It must be anchored in, which in this case requires impact drilling to a depth of seven stories for at least two years.
  5. There is no place on Hawaii Island where zoning laws allow for the construction of such a massive and environmentally destructive project, even in industrial areas.
  6. There is no way construction of a structure this size will not have an impact on Mauna Kea’s pristine environment.

While there are many other facts to consider regarding the appropriateness of the proposed project and the state’s legal obligation to protect resources in a conservation district, the simple exercise above sufficiently closes the case.

This is not a matter of science versus superstition. It doesn’t matter how many jobs the project will create nor what mysteries it might solve. It’s a matter of the law, to whom it applies and to what extent we are compelled to enforce the law when corrupted government officials break it.

Supporters of the blockade support the rule of law and the principle that it applies to everyone, no matter how wealthy and powerful and connected they may be. Please join them and support, in whatever way you can, their effort to enforce the laws that protect all of Hawaii’s most special places, including the sacred landscape of Mauna Kea.

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