Once you sell your soul, there is no need for a conscience; once you lose integrity, the rest is easy. Recall that Mara (Satan) tempted Jesus Christ with all the power and wealth of the world, but Jesus shrugged and shunned it.

(Correction: Due to an editing error, Mara was changed to Mary in an earlier version of the story.)

But, not so with the Thirty Meter Telescope. So lusty are the business advocates of the TMT that they would ignore your conscience, sap your spirit, and disregard your places of worship.

What’s next, opening bars and clubs at the Vatican next to the Sistine Chapel, just to make extra dough? Why not? After all, money rules. But, that is a rough equivalent of what they are doing atop Mauna Kea, in the eyes of many.

That Mauna Kea is and has been a place of worship is a veritable fact. Tens of thousands of Hawaiians believe and attest to that. This enough is sufficient to respect their beliefs. That some Hawaiians want the TMT there does not mean that Mauna Kea ceases to be a major place of worship accepted by the vast populace.

The state wouldn’t destroy a hundred-year old building in the state for its historical value, but they have no qualms about desecrating a place of worship that is thousands of years old.

We know what happens when those of one religion force themselves on another. The Al Aqsa mosque was built atop King Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem; a mosque was built atop Lord Rama’s temple in Ayodhya, India. But, the mayhem and turmoil that followed hurt much too many.

Backers of the Thirty Meter Telescope are considering alternative sites in the Canary Islands. Pictured here is the Nordic Optical Telescope, Observatorio Roque de los Muchachos, La Palma, Canary Islands. Flickr: Victor R. Ruiz

Oh, why step on someone’s toes and tread on their feelings? Why take away a sacred place of worship? Doesn’t it hurt your conscience? Oh sorry, you probably already sold your soul to the dollar. Moreover, modern atheism that powers the insensitivity of people has reached abhorrent depths that does not bode well for our survival.

The state and the TMT businessmen have shown no respect for religion and faith. And, what good does it do to usurp someone’s property? In and of itself, this is a sin. Directly, this feels absolutely like colonial oppression once again. And, the state hasn’t thought what karma it would gain. But, such thinking might be beyond them.

The $1.4 billion for the project can be raised or spent in other ways. Hawaii needs to focus on real problems without trampling on minorities and the traditional faith of people.

For instance, $1.4 billion can be spent on ocean thermal energy conversion, which is green energy. That can give more returns and jobs than what the TMT can, besides securing our future. Then, there’s money to be spent on plasma arc gasification that would eliminate the need for future landfills.

Indubitably, the returns from OTEC are very profitable — like reducing the cost of electricity by a third; and the returns from PAG will reduce landfill maintenance costs, as well as stop the spread of landfills to other parts of the island. Thus, OTEC and PAG are more necessary for the survival of Hawaii than is the TMT. Gazing at the stars is a nice pastime, but it stops there.

It is interesting that Israeli law prohibits the destruction of a place of worship. Despite the anger they feel against their neighbors, they have not pulled down the Al Aqsa mosque that was built atop King Solomon’s temple, though doing so would be easy. There’s a lesson to be learned from this.

But, it appears that our human nature in Hawaii is destructive: we would rather destroy someone else’s habitat than be creative on our own. Empathy has become a bad word these days, while the display of empathy is dubbed anti-science and anti-modernism.

Facts On The Ground

But, there is lots of other science to pursue here on earth in the vicinity of Hawaii: the coral are dying and the beaches are subsiding. Further, local farming is still ignored, relatively. To ignore the facts on the ground, but eye the stars is a pure sign of eccentricity.

The University of Hawaii and DLNR used every unholy trick to disempower people who consider Mauna Kea sacred, and succeeded. People of other religions — and investors and business people — came with their rose-colored glasses to tell the Hawaiians how to worship, where to worship. This was the height of a holier-than-thou attitude. There is nothing the manipulators won’t stoop to: the depths for the damned are limitless.

“We would rather destroy someone else’s habitat than be creative on our own.”

Many opposed the project, and the opponents requested a contested case hearing. It was discovered that the Board of Land and Natural Resources illegally approved the University of Hawaii Hilo’s conservation district use application by issuing a permit. The opponents sued. And, a 1,500-person march filled the streets of Honolulu, but the state was unmoved and persisted in brushing-off the worshippers’ positions.

But, in a victory for the appellants, the Hawaii Supreme Court handed the case back to the Circuit Court. Consequently, a new case hearings officer was selected by BLNR, but without following proper protocol, where the hearings officer emerged with a conflict of interest, declaring membership in the Imiloa Astronomy Center. How blatant and in your face could that be, like robbery in broad daylight?

As expected, the case hearings officer ruled in favor of BLNR and UH. Who cares for hearts and minds anymore?

In the final blow by the courts, the death knell was given to the sanctity of a genuine place of worship. This is what the rule of the majority gives you.

But, the heart itself is a temple of worship. Disregard devotional worship and you disregard the universe. In contrast, imagine innovative solutions and a path can be found. Decision-making is not easy, but the state has shown its heartlessness.

Nevertheless, the story is not over. The TMT team is still working on a possible site in the Canary islands. In addition, the Hawaiians have a continuing plan to agitate against the construction.

The owners of TMT may well decide it is not worth their while to stay in Hawaii. In fact, they sensed trouble 10 years ago when the idea was floated, which is why they began exploring the Canary Islands as a possible alternate site.

Negotiations at the Canary Islands are apparently going well. We could have told them years ago to save everyone’s time, money, and energy and go to the Canary Islands, for sure. Here, they will face resistance long into the future. There, the canaries can sing for them till their black holes swallow Earth.

Here is a possible canary in the coal mine for TMTs plans for Hawaii. The easier choice is a low-hanging fruit that can be seen as large as through a telescope.

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About the Author

  • Amarjit Singh
    Amarjit Singh is professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Hawaii Manoa. Dr. Singh teaches subjects in construction engineering management. He is the recipient of the 2019 Construction Management Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers for innovation and research aimed at improving construction around the globe.