News, updates, finds, and stories from staff and community members at KAHEA.
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News, updates, finds, stories, and tidbits from staff and community members at KAHEA. Got something to share? Email us at:

Collaborate Much?

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?

Exemptions Gone Wild

Generally, under today’s environmental laws, certain kinds of projects have to do an environmental review (Like an EIS). Other kinds of projects can be exempted. The BP oil spill at Deepwater Horizon has been a sobering reminder of why these kinds of environmental reviews and exemptions are so critical. (Can you believe THIS was exempted from EIS?)

Today, DLNR is proposing a “wild laundry list” of EIS exemptions for DLNR-managed lands, from building new roads to chemical herbicides. That’s 57 pages (fifty-seven!) of exemptions. Yeesh. We are asking the Office of Environmental Quality and Control (OEQC) to send DLNR back to the drawing board. If you or your organization is interested in participating in a group letter to OEQC or just want to know more about this issue, please contact Marti at by Friday morning.

Mauna Kea Update: Appeal before the ICA

Posted by Marti Townsend at Jul 30, 2010 02:44 AM |

From Marti:

Yesterday, the Mauna Kea hui (Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, Royal Order of Kamehameha I, Sierra Club, KAHEA, and Clarence Kukauakahi Ching) filed the opening brief in our appeal to the Intermediate Court of Appeals challenging the Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) for Mauna Kea.  The Circuit Court had denied our case on the theory that the CMP didn’t actually do anything to affect the summit.

If the CMP doesn’t do anything to affect the summit, then how can the University of Hawaii proceed with its proposal to build the Thirty Meter Telescope?  Answer: they can’t.

The University of Hawaii — the sole creator, proponent and implementer of the CMP — simply can’t have it both ways. Either the CMP meets the legal requirements for construction in a conservation district and therefore does “something”… a “something” for which rightholders like the Mauna Kea hui can ask a court review.  OR… the CMP doesn’t actually do anything, and therefore doesn’t meet the pre-requisite that a conservation district have comprehensive management before anything is built there … thus prohibiting the construction of a new massive telescope.

Here is the introduction to the hui’s opening brief:

This case is about the Board of Land and Natural Resources’ (“BLNR”) preferential treatment of the University of Hawai‘i’s astronomy program and its complete disregard for the protected rights of Native Hawaiian and other users of the summit of Mauna Kea.  On its face, the University of Hawai‘i’s Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan (“CMP”) purports to broadly and actively regulate all uses of the Conservation District of Mauna Kea’s summit, including the religious, cultural, and recreational activities of the Mauna Kea Appellants.  But the BLNR chose to completely ignore the CMP’s impact on Mauna Kea Appellants’ rights, duties and privileges.  Contrary to its obligations under Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (“HRS”) Chapter 91 and Department of Land and Natural Resources (“DLNR”) regulations, (Hawai‘i Administration Rules (“H.A.R.”) §§ 13-1-28 – 13-1-40), the BLNR issued its final decision to approve the CMP without holding a full and formal contested case proceeding. Record on Appeal, 2009 (“ROA-2009″) at 20-27.

The Mauna Kea Appellants appealed the BLNR’s final decisions to the Third Circuit Court of Hawai‘i (“Circuit Court”).  ROA-2009 at 1-15.  Appellees BLNR and the UH entities refused to transmit the administrative record to the Circuit Court and instead filed a Motion to Dismiss the appeal.  ROA-2009 at 254-265, 268-282.  Incredibly, the Circuit Court determined, without ever reviewing the CMP or the rest of the administrative record, that the CMP was a harmless “unimplemented” document and dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.  ROA-2009 at 369-372; Record on Appeal, 2010 (“ROA-2010″)  at 1-9.

The Mauna Kea Appellants respectfully request that this Court reverse the Circuit Court’s order and remand this case to the Circuit Court: (1) with a finding that the Circuit Court has jurisdiction, under HRS § 91-14 and/or H.A.R. § 13-5-3 to review Appellants’ appeal from the BLNR’s final decisions; or, alternatively, (2) with a finding that the Circuit Court misapplied the standard of review for a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, particularly where the issue of subject matter jurisdiction is intertwined with the merits of the Appellants’ appeal.

In other words, please give the Mauna Kea hui its day in court.  Here is a link to the full opening brief.

Big mahalo to our attorneys, Colin Yost and Elizabeth Dunne, for working so hard on our behalf.

Leg 2010: Post-Mortem

Posted by Miwa at Apr 30, 2010 08:51 PM |

From Marti:

This legislative session didn’t turn out to be as bad as it could have been for our natural and cultural resources.  By mid-session this year, there were proposals to drastically weaken our EIS law, transfer 54% of the Division of Aquatic Resources to HIMB for groundskeepers (really, Dr. Leong? You know, City Mill has a sale on lawnmowers), and grant corporations extended leases to exploit our ocean. Thanks to the advocacy of so many, none of these proposals passed.

Not only that, legislators did manage to pass some good bills (in addition to HB 444). Sitting on the Governor’s desk for approval right now are laws that make it a felony to intentionally kill Hawaiian monk seals, require solar water heaters on new homes, and prevent beachfront landowners from using naupaka to block public access to and along the shoreline. It’s about time! Thanks also to your efforts, an audit will happening for Mauna Kea–albeit a self-audit. And while we still believe a self-audit is really no kind of audit at all, we do see it as a step in the right direction by the legislature. A very small, very weak and very tentative step, but a step nonetheless.

Mahalo to all those whose late nights, phone calls, petition gathering, and committed advocacy helped keep this 2010 legislative session from going off the rails.

Self-audit = No kind of audit at all

Self-audit = No kind of audit at all

Posted by Miwa at Apr 30, 2010 08:45 PM |

University of Hawai'i administration dodges a public audit. What does it take to get some independent oversight around here?

Read More…

Hawaiians, mountain in 'Avatar'-like struggle

From Marti:

Great editorial in the Sacramento Bee yesterday about the analogies between the struggle depicted in the movie Avatar and the real world struggle to protect the last pristine plateau of Mauna Kea. Here’s a quote:

The California astronomers’ “unobtanium” quest – research papers revealing “the secrets of the universe” and identifying planets beyond our solar system – is certainly more noble than mining minerals, but it’s another example of promoting one culture’s notion of progress by overriding another’s reverence for the land. As in the movie, behind the Mauna Kea invaders stands the big money of a starry-eyed entrepreneur, Intel co-founder and telescope donor Gordon Moore.

Particularly rich was the comment posted by Richard Ha about the importance of process. Totally agree, Uncle, which is why we oppose a plan to manage the summit conservation district that is written by the lead-developer of the summit.  Just as one example, the plan puts no limit on the number of telescopes that could be built on the summit.

This is not surprising.  For decades, the University of Hawaii has promised to better protect the natural and cultural resources of the summit while actively destroying them.  This TMT+CMP combo is just the latest example.

Point Missed

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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