Under Hawaii’s Starriest Skies, a Fight Over Sacred Ground

Oct 4, 2016

By Dennis Overbye

MAUNA KEA, Hawaii — Little lives up here except whispering hopes and a little bug called Wekiu.

Three miles above the Pacific, you are above almost half the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere and every step hurts. A few minutes in the sun will fry your skin. Brains and fingers go numb. At night, the stars are so close they seem tangled in your hair.

Two years ago, this mountaintop was the scene of a cosmic traffic jam: honking horns, vans and trucks full of astronomers, V.I.P.s, journalists, businesspeople, politicians, protesters and police — all snarled at a roadblock just short of the summit.

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2 comments on “Under Hawaii’s Starriest Skies, a Fight Over Sacred Ground

  • “Sacred” means “I have no reason to stop you from building a telescope, I don’t even own the property.
    It is just that I don’t want you to. ” So what benefits are there to anyone to blocking the telescope?

    This is barren land. You cannot justify blocking the telescope on ecological grounds.

    A legal case might explore just how much land where is claimed to be sacred.

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  • @OP link – Construction trash sometimes rolled down the mountain, said Nelson Ho, a photographer and Sierra Club leader who complained to the university. “They wouldn’t listen,” he said. “They just kept playing king of the mountain.”

    An audit by the State of Hawaii in 1998 scolded the university for failing to protect the mountain and its natural and cultural resources. An environmental impact study performed by NASA in 2007 similarly concluded that 30 years of astronomy had caused “significant, substantial and adverse” harm to Mauna Kea.

    It seems that this is not simply a matter of superstition V science.

    In some regard, the astronomers have brought this on themselves by disregarding environmental issues.

    Hawaii, like the Galapagos, is a very rare environment, which should be treated with respect for all the sciences, habitats, and unique features: – not simply exploited to benefit one specialist area of them, by bulldozing rough-shod over other interests.

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