The Enduring Protest. If the past week’s rallies around the International Astronomical Union convention are any indication, the 5-month-old movement against construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope isn’t losing any steam.
The Mauna Kea Protectors held a press conference Tuesday to decry convention organizers’ refusal to let them hold a panel discussion as part of the conference, planning for which has been underway for six years. The protesters requested the discussion about 10 days ago, but IAU convention organizers said they would have needed the request a year and a half ago to fit it into their packed, two-week agenda at the Hawaii Convention Center.
The protesters followed that event with a large, peaceful march through Waikiki on Sunday morning, a red sea of participants wearing the distinctive “Aloha Aina” T-shirts.
As Civil Beat’s Marina Riker reported Friday, the movement is cleverly using social media as a means of extending its reach and maintaining interest. Riker’s animated map of anti-TMT Twitter activity over the past month reflects a coalition reaching across five continents. That movement is expanding beyond TMT to include land preservation and cultural heritage issues, as Jessica Terrell reported last week.
Work on the massive telescope, meanwhile, remains largely halted atop the mountain, despite passage last month of a new emergency rule banning overnight camping and subsequent arrests of seven protesters who flouted the ban.
The restraint and thoughtfulness of both sides of a conflict that has always been about more than one telescope continues to be admirable, setting a highly visible example for the many observers monitoring it around the world. Despite the heartfelt passion of many opposing TMT, protesters have largely adhered to the “kapu aloha” they established for themselves months ago – a policy advocating respect and restraint in words and actions.
As the TMT controversy plays out, it’s providing endless opportunities for discussions regarding Hawaiian culture, astronomy and scientific endeavor, history, land use policy and more. The dialogue is not always easy, but it is unfailingly illuminating and generally healthy.
Gov. David Ige has met that dynamic with respect, taking care to safeguard First Amendment free speech rights and sympathizing with those who feel a sacred mountain is being violated, even as he rightly works toward allowing legally permitted construction of the telescope to proceed. Department of Land and Natural Resources Chair Suzanne Case, appointed to that position earlier this year by Ige, struck a conciliatory tone on Thursday as she addressed the annual Hawaii Conservation Conference in Hilo.
“We are now working on a plan to bring back 10,000 acres from the astronomy lease to go back to DLNR for more direct stewardship of natural and cultural resources in collaboration with the interests of stakeholders,” said Case, referencing a commitment made by Ige earlier this year. “So any of you who are interested stakeholders, please feel that this is a conversation that we are trying to be inclusive on and we want all of you to participate in. We want the best for the mountain.”
The TMT controversy clearly isn’t going away anytime soon. As it plays out, it’s providing endless opportunities for discussions regarding Hawaiian culture, astronomy and scientific endeavor, history, land use policy and more. The dialogue is not always easy, but it is unfailingly illuminating and generally healthy.
Visit Civil Beat’s Connections: Mauna Kea for a rich breadth and variety of views on the matter, and feel free to submit your own contribution to the dialogue.Goodbye, Guillermo; Hello, Hilda. Tropical Storm Guillermo was largely a non-event last week, losing much of its strength before it got near the Hawaii islands, which it skirted to the north. Were it not for the high surf Guillermo sent to our shores, many of us might not have even realized there was rough weather in the vicinity.
Hilda is expected to reach Hawaii later this week and repeat the pattern: Currently a hurricane, it’s expected to fade to a weak tropical storm or perhaps a simple depression.
But Hawaii emergency management officials and Hawaii residents are right to remain vigilant in the face of these threats, even as atmospheric conditions often work to the state’s advantage in weakening storm systems before they can cause much harm. One only has to recall Hurricane Iselle’s destructive path over Hawaii Island a year ago – about $80 million in crop and property damage, 11 homes destroyed and more than 250 residences damaged – to be reminded that meeting these events with complacency is a dangerous strategy.
If you haven’t already done so, use the run-up to Hilda this week as an opportunity to make a disaster preparedness kit. The Hawaii State Civil Defense website offers guidance from the Red Cross and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on making effective kits, as well as tips on preparing homes for high winds and special considerations for parents of school-age kids.
As Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell repeatedly exhorted residents last week, we must prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Make this the week that you make your plan.