Canada Isn’t Immune to the Thirty Meter Telescope Controversy

This is a thorny issue, make no mistake. I personally believe (having lived on the big Island) that the number of indigenous Hawaiians who have a problem with the telescopes is not as large as some people would have you believe. I also believe that future telescopes will choose not to go through the grief associated with these protests. Science, and the people on the big Island, will suffer, but there are so many sites where new telescopes would be welcomed with open arms that it will only be natural to go elsewhere. 

Mauna Kea is a prime location for astronomy: as the tallest mountain in the Pacific, the air is dry and generally clear, and there is little regional light pollution. These conditions have already resulted in the construction of thirteen telescopes on the mountain since 1968. However, indigenous Hawai’ians regard Mauna Kea as a holy site, with the telescopes speckling the mountain located on sacred ground. Though the TMT consortium followed an extensive legal process to gain approval for the site, which was granted in 2013, Hawai’ian groups have filed court cases alleging that the environmental assessment is flawed and insufficiently rigorous, and that the project contradicts statutes from a previous case.