Astronomy Faces A Field-Defining Choice In Choosing The Next Steps For The TMT
“Science, when done properly, is an endeavor undertaken by humanity as a single civilization, for the benefit of all and to the detriment of none. Yes, it’s true that the TMT has chosen a site for construction designed to minimize its environmental impact across a wide variety of metrics. Yes, the President of the American Astronomical Society has put out a nuanced and compassionate statement cautioning against many of the pitfalls of the past.
And yes, it’s true that from a purely technical perspective, Mauna Kea is vastly superior to the second-choice site in Spain, which is at a lower elevation by approximately 1,800 meters (about 1.1 miles). But all of these facts, true though they might be, are not the only factors at play here. At stake are two completely independent issues: the future of astronomy and the right to self-determination of a historically marginalized indigenous population.”
For many years now, the astronomy community has clashed with a divided indigenous population in Hawaii over the proposed construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). Astronomers want the best telescope at the best physical site possible, while many members of the native population want to be able to choose how they protect and honor perhaps their greatest natural resource: the summit of Mauna Kea. It’s a complex, nuanced issue, and you should be aware of a great many of the facets surrounding it.