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Posts Tagged ‘telescopes’

We’re liking this thought-proving post from journalist Anne Minard, on the “next great telescope race”–Day 14 of her “100 Days of Science.” She asks some great questions about the fundamental purpose of the two U.S. proposals for “next generation” giant land-based telescopes being proposed for construction within the next 10 years. Do we really need THIS much telescope, guys?

Charles Alcock, director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, acknowledged that the two telescopes are headed toward redundancy. The main differences, he said, are in the engineering.

He said the next generation of telescopes is crucial for forward progress in 21st Century astronomy.

“The goal is to start discovering and characterizing planets that might harbor life,” he said. “It’s very clear that we’re going to need the next generation of telescopes to do that.”

And far from being a competition, the real race is to contribute to science, said Charles Blue, a TMT spokesman.

“All next generation observatories would really like to be up and running as soon as possible to meet the scientific demand,” he said.

But when I asked him why the United States teams haven’t pooled their expertise to build a single next-generation telescope, Blue declined to comment.

In all, there are actually three teams (two from the U.S., and one from Europe) racing to build the first of these giant land-based telescopes: Extremely Large Telescope (Europe), TMT (U.S.), and Giant Magellan Telescope (U.S.). (And no, we’re not making these names up… in almost every description we could find, these bad boys are characterized first and foremost by their massive size.) The total estimated price tag for all this summit development? $2.6 billion dollars.

In the midst of this competition to build the first and the largest,  the worldwide community of those who share aloha for sacred summits are humbly asking:  for time and real consideration for native ecosystems, threatened endemic species, the cultural meaning of sacred space, cultural practice, and the natural and cultural heritage we have to pass forward to next generations… all in short supply on earth today. Can we not rationally slow down this latest race for space, in the interest of the future of life on our own planet?

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From Marti:

News coverage of the court hearing on the University’s plans for Mauna Kea characterized our opposition to the plan as anti-development.  It said:

“(opponents) want to block new development on the mountain by stopping approval of the management plan.”

As one of our kupuna pointed out, actually the motivation is all the University’s part.  She said

“advocates for more telescopes on the summit want the UH CMP rushed to completion in order to move forward with several new development plans.”

While it is true that as long as there is no plan there is no TMT, that is not the desired outcome for the plan.  We’re not trying to block the plan to stop TMT.

What we do want is the opportunity to have a real plan–one that arises out of a transparent process and allows communities to articulate a public vision for the future of these extremely important public trust lands. That is what a public planning process is supposed to do. The point is that we have been denied the kind of critical, public and open discussion that would lead to such a plan. In its place, we are being told to shut up and accept a plan that was written by the university and driven by its interest in telescope development and telescope dollars.

We have long said that we want a fair opportunity to talk through and determine together how astronomy and cultural practice and natural conservation coexist–in what form, by what rules, and with what limits–on the summit. This is not an unreasonable ask. The University is wasting precious public education dollars on motion after motion in this case, because they are unwilling to compromise in any way on their development plans. For the University, this case is all about TMT. For advocates of the mountain, this case is not about TMT at all. It is about our standing, and the right of the people of Hawai’i to determine the future of a unique, irreplaceable summit that is part of Hawai’i’s public trust.

Click here to read the article from the Hawaii Tribune Herald.

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From Marti:

Yesterday morning, the Third Circuit Court heard oral arguments on the University of Hawaii’s motion to dismiss our appeal for a contested case hearing on the University’s new management plan for Mauna Kea.

Though we are still waiting for the judge’s ruling, the hearing made one thing clear: supporters of this “CMP” also support more telescopes (and more desecration and destruction) on the sacred summit.  Less than a dozen people sign-waved outside the Hilo courthouse during the hearing with pre-printed signs that said “Mauna Kea TMT Yes!”  If you ever doubted the connection between more telescopes and the University’s CMP, then yesterday’s demonstration of support for the “Thirty Meter Telescope” at a hearing on the CMP should make it clear that the University wrote this CMP to facilitate telescope construction on Mauna Kea.  Indeed, the CMP does not speak to any limitations on telescopes or a carrying capacity for the summit.

…unless, of course, if by “TMT” they meant “Too Many Telescopes.”

And, Mahalo Nunui!! This is just a little shout out to all of those who took time out of their workday to sit in solidarity with us before the judge.  Mahalo for your unwavering support.

Want to help? Click here to sign up for action alerts and receive regular court updates. And click over here to donate directly to the Mauna Kea Legal Defense Fund.

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From Marti:

The Hawaii Legislature is seriously considering a raid on our most important conservation funds in order to balance the state budget.  This is insane given all that these few millions do to protect the quality of our drinking water, the health of our native ecosystems, and truly local jobs.  But, the insanity goes a step further once you realize they are considering these massive cuts when the state is owed millions upon millions for the use of public land on Mauna Kea.

For 40 years foreign-owned telescopes have used (and destroyed) acres of public land on the summit of Mauna Kea without paying any rent.  Rent, that is required by state law!  It’s estimated that the state could earn at least $50 million a year just by charging market-based rent for the use of our public lands, instead of giving it away to foreign corporations and countries… and cutting important programs and jobs to make ends meet.

On Sunday, the Honolulu Advertiser published the editorial below from some of the entities that directly benefit from these important programs.  If you would like to express your support for these programs to the Hawaii Legislature, click here.

Natural resources permit our survival

By Herbert “Monty” Richards, Gary and Kukui Maunakea-Forth and Rick Barboza
Honolulu Advertiser, April 12, 2009

We thank The Advertiser for its editorial (April 2) on the necessity of natural resource stewardship even during fiscal crises. Generations of ranchers, farmers and land managers have always understood the close connection between a healthy natural environment, land protection, stewardship, water supply, agricultural self-sufficiency and the economy.

Business and government often measure our economy by the number of tourism and construction jobs in operation. That’s understandable, but doesn’t account for vast natural assets (water, forests, beaches, coral reefs, agricultural land) that support every person in Hawai’i — residents and visitors — who depend on services from the environment for their livelihoods, health and welfare.

The programs that are funded by the DLNR’s Natural Area Reserve Fund and the Land Conservation Fund are essential to the protection of our Hawaiian resources. They support watershed management, invasive species control, agricultural production, forestry, coastal protection and cultural preservation. Hundreds are employed and more than 1 million acres are managed, protected and cultivated for public benefit. These healthy, managed natural resources and the services they provide allow us the lifestyle we all enjoy and permit our survival in the middle of the vast Pacific.

Due to difficult times, conveyance tax revenue that supports these funds is down 50 percent. These programs will be cut by half or more even without House Bill 1741. Further reduction in the NAR Fund and Land Conservation Fund as proposed in HB 1741 would either eliminate many of these essential programs or cripple them to the point of leaving them inoperable and nonfunctioning. These programs leverage funding by at least 1:1, and in some cases as much as 1:3, with federal, county and private dollars (i.e., for every state dollar spent, three additional matching non-state dollars can be leveraged).

The NAR Fund and the Land Conservation Fund are our state’s way of supporting large-scale conservation that protects our incredible natural resources, supports sustainable land and water management, ensures high-quality jobs, and guarantees the perpetuation of essential ecosystem services worth billions of dollars. Without watershed management, critical drinking water resources will dry up or become contaminated.

Without personnel in the field controlling invasive species, pests like bee mites will infiltrate our shores — wiping out industries like our local honey/beekeeping industry, or requiring tens of millions to control and eradicate (e.g., miconia, coqui frogs). Without land protection, more agricultural, watershed, forest, coastal and culturally important lands will be converted; reducing our ability to feed ourselves and attract visitors who appreciate Hawai’i’s natural beauty.

Without these programs, successes like MA’O Organic Farms might not be possible. MA’O recently purchased agricultural land using Land Conservation Funds, allowing it to expand its organic farm, and employ over two dozen high school graduates from Wai’anae and Nanakuli and pay their college tuition and stipends. As fifth-generation ranchers in North Kohala, Kahua Ranch and its neighbors in the Kohala Watershed Partnership are using their resources and support from the NAR Fund to control invasive species and protect 65,000 acres of native forests and watersheds.

With help from the NAR Fund’s Forest Stewardship Program, Hui Ku Maoli Ola will restore over 30 acres of land in Ha’iku valley. Keeping the NAR Fund percentage at 25 percent and the Land Conservation Fund percentage at 10 percent is a small investment for such large, sustainable and long-term benefits for our island communities.

Herbert “Monty” Richards of Kahua Ranch, Gary and Kukui Maunakea-Forth of MA’O Organic Farms and Rick Barboza of Hui Ku Maoli Ola wrote this commentary for The Advertiser.

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Your help is needed right now. Lobbyists for the University of Hawaii, backed by powerful foreign telescope-developers, are pushing hard to take control of Mauna Kea’s public trust resources and override the conservation laws currently barring further development on our sacred summits. If successful, they will use this authority to write their own rules, approve their own permits, and shut-out the public. Public trust resources cannot be protected if the developers are allowed to police themselves.

Puu Hau Kea -- Massive Volcanic Cinder Cone On the flanks of Mauna Kea Hawaii

You can help stop UH’s land-grab on Mauna Kea’s sacred summit. After 40 years of mismanagement, tell the State Land Board and the Legislature that enough is enough!

“The University’s lobbyists will say anything to get their way. I heard them tell Legislators they had community consent. I am from the community and tell you what, they have nothing of the sort.” — Kukauakahi Ching, Native Hawaiian Practitioner.

Our sacred summits — Mauna Kea and Haleakala — are protected by law as conservation districts. These are public trust ceded lands–Hawaiian lands–held by the state in trust for the people of Hawaii. Yet, today Mauna Kea’s public lands are exploited by foreign corporations and the University, who are profiting from telescope activities on the summit at the public’s expense.

“The rent from the foreign telescope-owners is 30 years past due–they have paid only $1 a year to misuse Mauna Kea. If the state had been collecting the $50 million dollars a year from these foreign telescope-owners, like we suggested to them years ago, we would not have these budget shortfalls now. Remember, $50 million in 1 year is $100 million in just 2 years. They owe the people of Hawaii for 30 years of back rent. How dare they suggest to short-change the taxpayers now.” –Kealoha Pisciotta, President Mauna Kea Anaina Hou.

Forty years of uncontrolled telescope construction has desecrated cultural sites, contaminated the ground above the primary aquifer, and destroyed 90% of the endemic Wekiu’s habitat. Today, developers are vying to build two new telescopes (along with roads, parking lots, office buildings, and gift shops) on undeveloped habitat around the summit area. One of them — owned by the California Thirty Meter Telescope Corporation — is larger than all the current telescopes combined and will bulldoze the last pristine peak near the summit.

The only thing stopping them is the law. That is why the University is working hard to overturn the laws that currently protect our sacred summits and limit telescope construction. Two courts of law and two state audits have already found that the telescope industry violated the state and federal laws meant to protect Mauna Kea. The only way their future telescope construction plans can go forward is for the University and the telescope developers to change and exempt themselves from these protective environmental laws.

This latest bid to take over Mauna Kea has two fronts:
1. Pressure the Land Board to adopt an illegitimate management plan that limits public access, dictates religious ceremony, and allows UH and telescope developers to pocket public money,
2. Lobby the Legislature to pass one of four bills that will hand-over authority for managing Mauna Kea to the primary developer of the summit, the University of Hawaii.

All of it comes down to the University’s same, long-sought goal: make it easier to exploit Mauna Kea for money. The latest proposal on the table would allow the University to restrict public access (including how and when Hawaiians may worship at the sacred summit), pocket all the money made on Mauna Kea, and exempt themselves from public oversight. This is a public policy and legal nightmare!

“The University wants to gate the road to Mauna Kea–the road was paid for by taxpayers, it’s a public road. The University wants to require Hawaiians to get a permit to worship–Mauna Kea belongs to Ke Akua, they cannot lock the people out of the temple. Even if Hawaiians could get a permit, it would mean they couldn’t bring their non-Hawaiian friends and ohana to ceremony. This is discrimination! Who is the University to say who can and cannot worship?” — Paul Neves, Alii Ai Moku, Royal Order of Kamehameha I.

Your voice can help preserve the sacred temple and delicate ecosystem of Mauna Kea. Take action now to tell the Legislature and the Land Board that Mauna Kea is still not for sale.

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“They’re forcing them to make a decision between education and desecration, and that’s not proper.” -Kealoha Pisciotta, Mauna Kea Anaina Hou

Giant Telescope Eyes Site on Mauna Kea, front page of the Sunday Advertiser, as Senator Inouye proposes undefined “scholarships for Native Hawaiians” as mitigation for a proposed new two-acre observatory facility on the last pristine plateau of Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea is both ecologically unique and culturally sacred, and we know that telescope operation and construction have already had a significant impact, and that the UH Institute for Astronomy (UHIFA) have not done an adequate job of protecting the natural and cultural resources of the summit over the last 30 years of telescope development. The UHIFA also pays only $1 in lease monies to the people of Hawai`i for their use of the summit.

  • In 1998, the Hawai’i State Auditor issued a report criticizing the UHIFA’s and BLNR’s management of Mauna Kea. The Auditor found that the UHIFA’s focus on telescope construction was “at the expense of neglecting the site’s natural resources.” Among the effects of the construction were: the damage or destruction of historic sites and Hawaiian family shrines; the destruction of the Wekiu Bug’s habitat; trash and construction debris left on the summit; and abandoned facilities and equipment.
  • A court-ordered EIS completed by NASA in February 2005 concluded of the telescopes: “From a cumulative perspective, the impact of past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future activities on cultural and biological resources is substantial, adverse and significant…

NASA already offered $1.85 million towards Native Hawaiian causes, a gesture that Native Hawaiians noted did not address the actual desecration of the mountain. The UHIFA has continually ignored the call of hundreds of Hawaiian citizens to halt further exploitation and development of Mauna Kea’s summit, and to assess cumulative damage to cultural and environmental resources before proceeding with future development.

But an undefined amount in scholorships? Should totally smooth things over.

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