In his biweekly column last Saturday, “guru” Ken Obenski took some foolish shots at the group working to develop one of the major scientific instruments to be built in the 21st century — the TMT project to build a 30 meter telescope here in Hawaii on Maunakea. Ken seems to think it will be their own fault if they do not finally succeed in getting a site on Maunakea
First, Ken doesn’t like the abbreviated name of the project called the Thirty Meter International Observatory or TIO. It is also know by an earlier and frequently used name of the Thirty Meter Telescope or TMT. He suggests the opponents of the project might be friendlier if they had named it after King Kamehameha or some other Hawaiian royalty.
Does he really think the opponents care about the name? They simply claim Maunakea as their own property and think they should be in charge. In any case, the project now is supported by 77 percent of Hawaii’s population, according to a recent poll by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Ken’s second point is that he thinks the project neglected to work with Hawaiian cultural groups to bring a more cooperative aspect of culture in the sharing of Maunakea’s history and access. The truth is that the project spent extensive efforts and money trying to cooperate with the local groups. As a result the state’s major Hawaiian cultural organization, OHA, supported the project but took a more neutral stance when the opposition blocked the roads and stopped the project three years ago. The Star-Advertiser shows that 72 percent of those with Hawaiian ancestry now support the project.
Ken’s final shot is based on an artist’s rendition of the TIO/TMT shown at the “peak” of Maunakea when the site is actually 500 feet below the summit. Ken claims that the TMT project created and circulated widely the picture, which backfired and damaged the project for many people.
The actual summit has always been off limits to any structures and TMT will only be visible from the northwest part of the island. If any damage was done it was from the protesters who distorted the size, location and pollution that would be created by the observatory.
The TMT project has just made a decision to defer the final choice of sites between Maunakea and the Spanish Canary Islands beyond their previous deadline this month. With the recent polling, it now looks like there is a very good chance that TMT can finally get clearance from all the state agencies and the State Supreme Count to be built here in Hawaii.
It is not a slam dunk and the protesters will be out in force, so those who support science, and education, should be actively working together to make this happen.
Jerry Smith is a resident of North Kohala.