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The Courts Space Technology

Giant Telescope Project Stalled By Hawaiian Natives (khon2.com) 177

Fudge Factor 3000 writes: The Hawaiian Supreme Court has pulled a construction permit for the Thirty Meter Telescope project. A vocal minority of Hawaiians has vehemently protested the construction of the telescope for religious reasons. Now, they have been successful in contesting the construction permit. The ruling reads in part: "The process followed by the Board here did not meet these standards. Quite simply, the Board put the cart before the horse when it issued the permit before the request for a contested case hearing was resolved and the hearing was held. Accordingly, the permit cannot stand."
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Giant Telescope Project Stalled By Hawaiian Natives

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  • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @09:17AM (#51048511)

    But the hypocrisy that will come from the complaints about the "Vocal Minority" will be over the top. All I have to say to both sides on this is, "Welcome to the rule of law and individual rights"

    • by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @09:36AM (#51048635)

      Section 7. The State reaffirms and shall protect all rights, customarily and traditionally exercised for subsistence, cultural and religious purposes and possessed by ahupua’a tenants who are descendants of native Hawaiians who inhabited the Hawaiian Islands prior to 1778, subject to the right of the State to regulate such rights. [Add Const Con 1978 and election Nov 7, 1978]”

      It may be law, but it makes me uneasy when a religion becomes enshrined in law. I guess we're lucky they're not cannibals.

      • by hackertourist ( 2202674 ) <hackertourist&xmsnet,nl> on Thursday December 03, 2015 @09:50AM (#51048721)

        This ruling has nothing to do with religion. Due process was not followed when the permit was granted. The university is free to apply for a permit again.

        • by pla ( 258480 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @10:48AM (#51049151) Journal
          This ruling has nothing to do with religion.

          "The State reaffirms and shall protect all rights, customarily and traditionally exercised for subsistence, cultural and religious purposes"

          Well, if by "nothing" you mean "everything"...


          Due process was not followed when the permit was granted. The university is free to apply for a permit again.

          Does the state intend to reimburse the university for expenses already incurred as a result of the state's negligence in failing to follow their discriminatory religion-favoring "due process" rules?
          • by hackertourist ( 2202674 ) <hackertourist&xmsnet,nl> on Thursday December 03, 2015 @11:04AM (#51049309)

            It doesn't matter on which grounds the protest group objected to the permit. They were not heard, and that's what the Court ruled on.

            • They were not heard, and that's what the Court ruled on.

              The real problem is that they were not paid off. Some native groups were paid off to abstain from protesting, but not all of them. UHH should have invested more time and money upfront to keep the right people happy. Now they are going to have to deal with bruised egos, and it is going to cost them even more.

      • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @10:01AM (#51048803)

        Anyone who has ever worked with Hawaiian natives can tell you this has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with money. Basically, whoever is trying to build this telescope must not have realized that building anything big in Hawaii requires a big kickback to the natives.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by chubs ( 2470996 )
          Pesky natives. I can't believe that after coercing them the U.S., transforming their homeland into an amusement park for tourists and virtually enslaving their people in the sugar plantations, they STILL feel like they have to be consulted before things happen on what little ground they have left. Didn't they get the message that they aren't valued? To think they want OUR MONEY when all we are trying to do is take over everything their culture remembers is preposterous. Honestly, we've been more than kind t
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            I spent a month in Hawaii learning about the native culture. The people are nice enough but as for the culture: I can hardly blame the plantation owners for considering them pagan savages. There is nothing of value to preserve there.

            It's an unpopular thing to say but the Hawaiins are infinitely better off as a result of gentrification than they were while they were still killing each-other for offending their royalty.

          • Dam, that was beautiful sarcasm. Mod +1.

            It is gems like this that prove /. isn't completely crap these days.

          • If you wanted to return them you should have done it within 30 days.

            Signed,
                Britain.

          • Hawaii is AMERICAN soil, not native Hawaiian soil. Every American alive has just as much claim to Hawaii as any 'native'. Its not 'their' culture anymore, its 'ours'. You know, melting pot and all that.
            • Hawaii is AMERICAN soil, not native Hawaiian soil. Every American alive has just as much claim to Hawaii as any 'native'. Its not 'their' culture anymore, its 'ours'. You know, melting pot and all that.

              "Melting pot" refers to the idea that people come and bring their cultural heritage to form something new. Claiming someone else's land for yourself is conquest, not melting pot. Stop smearing a good idea just to defend an obsolete one.

              • Obsolete how? If you think that there's anything other than the threat of physical violence that keeps the good intentions and first world problems we've got here in the West from collapsing, you're smoking something. And if you honestly think that the tribal savages in the rest of the world would have come up with small-L liberal society on their own, I direct your attention no further than the African continent.
        • Most organized anything, religion included, is ultimately about money. I'm just not comfortable with government granting special privilege to people based on their affiliation, as the duty of the state should be to ensure fair access to public lands, not to let some minority of citizens extort the rest.

          Aside: Is there any example of 'ancestral claims to land' not ending in a giant mess?

        • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @02:16PM (#51051195)
          To be fair, Hawaii is a particularly brazen example of a territory grab. I mean sure, most of the U.S. was settled that way, taking territory from native Americans (who didn't have the concept of owning land). But Hawaii was originally a country. White settlers from the U.S. who wanted to use it for agriculture overthrew the native government [wikipedia.org], and got the U.S. to annex it. Even then it wasn't over, as the U.S. allows territories to vote for either independence or statehood (the Philippines and Cuba for example voted for independence, Puerto Rico is in a perpetual state of delaying the vote). But by the time Hawaii voted, its native population had been overwhelmed by sugar and pineapple plantation workers and military personnel at Pearl Harbor.

          From the perspective of the natives, a mere kickback is probably a tiny fraction of what they feel is owed to them for basically stealing their country.
          • by tsqr ( 808554 )

            White settlers from the U.S. who wanted to use it for agriculture overthrew the native government [wikipedia.org], and got the U.S. to annex it.

            Yes they did. And a thousand years before that, settlers from Tahiti conquered the descendants of the previous settlers from the Southern Marquesas.

      • That's... protection from the government demanding that Native Hawaiians change their culture. The government of Hawaii shouldn't be demanding that ANYONE change their culture. (In fact, the US Constitution does extend that protection to everyone. The Hawaiian one probably does too, in parts of it that aren't quoted.)

        The point of a Constitution is that it's a set of rules that restrict the government from taking action against the citizenry. It makes me uneasy when someone advocates for loosening those re

      • People who are not alive should not be granted stuff like this. No law should cover 'descendants' The law is for the LIVING.
      • Section 7. The State reaffirms and shall protect all rights, customarily and traditionally exercised for subsistence, cultural and religious purposes and possessed by ahupua’a tenants who are descendants of native Hawaiians who inhabited the Hawaiian Islands prior to 1778, subject to the right of the State to regulate such rights. [Add Const Con 1978 and election Nov 7, 1978]”

        It may be law, but it makes me uneasy when a religion becomes enshrined in law. I guess we're lucky they're not cannibals.

        As I remember from fourth grade, an ahupuaa runs from the mountain peak (mauka) down to the ocean (makai) so that each one is self sustaining. I'm having a hard time figuring out the correct ahupuaa for the location on Mauna Kea for the telescopes to determine which group of native Hawaiians have the right to protest under section 7 of the state constitution.

        Bummer, looks like /. doesn't support Unicode enough to write the okina

    • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @09:45AM (#51048691)

      If Maunakea is so sacred, why has the military been able to use it as a bombing range all these years? Could it be that astronomers are just more easily picked on than soldiers?

  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @09:20AM (#51048529)

    There are not many places on Earth where a telescope of this size can go. Hawaii was chosen because of the near-ideal weather at high altitude, and a low Northern Hemisphere latitude, which would make the Thirty Meter Telescope an ideal companion to the European E-ELT now being built in Chile. So with Hawaii now out of the picture, where could we put it now?

    How about the Qinghai Plateau of Tibet (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tibetan_Plateau)? This is even higher than Maunakea, though the weather will not be as favorable and the latitude is somewhat too far north.

    • by Punko ( 784684 )
      the TMT should be place in the most advantageous location that it is permitted to be placed. If Maunakea is not available, find the next best location. Fixation on a single optimal solution (from a technical position) does not usually result in the "best" solution. Environmental impacts need to be considered for any such project, including potential impacts to the social and economic environment of the local residents, to the cultural and historical environs, to the political situation, to the flora and
    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @09:54AM (#51048751) Homepage

      It' not so much about altitude and weather as it is seeing conditions; Mauna Loa has among the best if not the best seeing conditions on Earth outside Antarctica. Good seeing depends in large part on how flat and uniform the terrain is for hundreds of kilometers upwind; high mountains on islands consequently tend to fare well (the Canary Islands are another good spot)

      The best known seeing location on Earth is in deep Antarctica. Unfortunately the location would make the costs prohibative.

    • Put it right next to the Mauna Loa Observatory. There's already a paved road leading all the way up, so it's not like a huge amount of infrastructure is required. Sure there might be an eruption in the next 100 years or so that could wipe it out, but... that's a problem for the next generation.

    • It is not clear that the TMT has to go somewhere else. The ruling was about the permit process, the university is free to apply for a permit again

      • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @10:17AM (#51048913)

        Yes, UH can theoretically reapply for a permit. The environmental qualification required for this mountain, independent of any native claims, is so intricate that doing it over again would take another fifteen years. Meanwhile, TMT components are already being built. I would rather see China grab the project than see us go through such a long permitting process all over again.

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      Only after China gives Tibet back to the Tibetans and apologizes for the atrocities they've committed there.

    • That will fix this crap.

    • the European E-ELT now being built in Chile.

      Funny, I'd have thought that astronomers would have taken at least *one* course in geography.

    • The TMT project evaluated Five locations, with the Cerro Amazones site being the runner up. - Cerro Armazones, Antofagasta Region, Republic of Chile - Cerro Tolanchar, Antofagasta Region, Republic of Chile - Cerro Tolar, Antofagasta Region, Republic of Chile - Mauna Kea, Hawaii, United States (This site was chosen and approval granted in April 2013, but subsequently revoked in December 2015) - San Pedro Mártir, Baja California, Mexico
      • That list of locations obviously preceded siting of the E-ELT, because the two are designed to work together. It's odd that Gran Canaria was not among them, but San Pedro Mártir is an interesting possibility.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @09:29AM (#51048583)

    "Cut the crap, how much money to appease the spirits of your ancestors?"

    • "Come on, name a price already. Don't force us to take what we want at gunpoint again!"
      • Either's fine by me.

        When religion stands in the way of progress, religion is wrong. Simple as that.

        • by Zak3056 ( 69287 )

          When religion stands in the way of progress, religion is wrong. Simple as that.

          Presupposing that all "progress" is good, and that religion is always bad surely is a simple position, in the sense of MW's 4th definition of the word.

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      Appease? Hah? Ask them how much the spirits want and which escrow account to deposit the funds. And no naughty siphoning off the money by the natives, they aren't dead yet.

    • Bargaining 101:

      Never make the first offer.
      Never make an open ended offer.

      • Exposing 101

        Make it seem like an offer when your intention is to show that the other side isn't bargaining fairly.

  • Sacred ground (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @09:30AM (#51048587)

    A vocal minority of Hawaiians has vehemently protested the construction of the telescope for religious reasons.

    Don't you love how people can make up nonsensical stories about how something is sacred to them to stop activities they don't like? Sometimes they even believe the nonsense they are spouting. But it's still nonsense. Personally I find scientific inquiry to be sacred ground and I can actually show how scientific inquiry benefits mankind. If they want to show how this telescope will cause some objective problem (environmental, logistical, financial, whatever) then by all means let's slow down and consider if the telescope is a good idea. But religious objections carry no weight with me.

    So they have to hold a hearing so everyone can have their say. Fine. Hold the hearing. But religious objections are no grounds to stop construction of the telescope. Let them tell us how sacred this particular patch of ground is and then build the damn thing. I'm tired of people trying to trample valuable research because of their mythology.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Punko ( 784684 )
      I'm tired of people trying to trample valuable research because of their mythology.

      Take a deep breath. Cultural or historic factors need to be taken in to consideration. If we simply discount our rich history, then we are no better than the fanatics destroying ancient monuments and statues in the desert.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Scientists in this case are discounting something that isn't there, not destroying stuff that is.

      • Take a deep breath. Cultural or historic factors need to be taken in to consideration.

        This has nothing to do with history and probably not much about culture either. It's (allegedly) about religion which is a mythology. And frankly I cannot see any rational argument that this damages the culture or historical record of anyone. It's a telescope on top of a mountain which is not being used for any other purpose. So long as there is no environmental issue or property rights issue involved then there is nothing to discuss.

        If we simply discount our rich history, then we are no better than the fanatics destroying ancient monuments and statues in the desert.

        Really? You're going to go there and compare scientists to a bunch of

        • by tarpitcod ( 822436 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @11:53AM (#51049783)

          In a falsifiability test between 'Hawaiian Magma Gods' and String theory, my money is on Hawaiian Magma Gods.

          • by Skewray ( 896393 )

            In a falsifiability test between 'Hawaiian Magma Gods' and String theory, my money is on Hawaiian Magma Gods.

            Mod this +1. Caveat: I am biased and work for TMT.

        • by Punko ( 784684 )

          This has nothing to do with history and probably not much about culture either. It's (allegedly) about religion which is a mythology. And frankly I cannot see any rational argument that this damages the culture or historical record of anyone. It's a telescope on top of a mountain which is not being used for any other purpose. So long as there is no environmental issue or property rights issue involved then there is nothing to discuss.

          Obviously you've never been involved in an Environmental Assessment Process. Cultural considerations, as well as aesthetic considerations can be show stoppers.

          Really? You're going to go there and compare scientists to a bunch of religious loonies destroying ancient artifacts? Ok, tell me what is being destroyed here. Aside from the area directly being built upon, what tangible thing is being destroyed? How does this change history or our record of history in any way? Who or what is actually being harmed here?

          I don't know exactly what is going on there. I am not an archaeologist, nor an anthropologist specializing in Hawaiian culture. But to discount the beliefs (which MAY be genuine) out of hand is 100% the same as blowing up idols because you believe they are not necessary. What is being destroyed ? Well, the locals, who are better informed that you

    • The Hawaiian natives are being played. The real agenda has nothing to do with native objections to a project that has less impact on the mountain than many things that have already been built on it.

      Read this and weep: http://dgrnewsservice.org/2015... [dgrnewsservice.org]

    • Unless there is something architectural in existence or a burial ground these things shouldn't even be allowed to go to hearing.

    • I don't know specifics of this project or the religious complaint against it, but consider this:

      Some projects may have an environmental or "beauty" impact (what if the top of the mountain has a beautiful view, and the project is about to cut down all the trees in the area and limit access to that view?). This telescope may do something like that. People are upset at losing a natural resource: the beauty of nature in their area. It should be a national park for future generations to enjoy the same view I enj

    • > But religious objections carry no weight with me.

      Guess what, no one died and made you god to dictate your myopic opinion is the only one that matters.

      They were there first; they get to decide the laws.

      > I'm tired of people trying to trample valuable research because of their mythology.

      And I'm tired of arrogant people who can't respect other people's cultures.

      How do you respect yourself when you can't even respect others of differing opinion?

      • Re:Sacred ground (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PPH ( 736903 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @01:37PM (#51050801)

        And I'm tired of arrogant people who can't respect other people's cultures.

        Science is a part of my culture. And I'm tired of people blocking its progress with silly religious objections.

        • by Punko ( 784684 )

          And I'm tired of arrogant people who can't respect other people's cultures.

          Science is a part of my culture. And I'm tired of people blocking its progress with silly religious objections.

          Not the same damn thing. No one is stopping scientific progress here. Its simply a choice between sites. This site is NOT the only one. It may be optimal from a purely technical point of view, but when you take in all considerations it may not be the optional solution. I'm sorry, putting your nuclear research centre downtown isn't a good idea. Find another location, and get on with your work.

          • Nope. Sorry. Aboriginal superstitions about sacred rocks do not live in the same universe as scientific (gasp!) risk assessments for nuclear reactors. Bullshit and fuzzy thinking have no reason to enter into any technical decisionmaking. Also, there are plenty of research nuclear reactors in dense urban areas. MIT has one in the middle of Cambridge, MA.
    • Don't you love how people can make up nonsensical stories about how something is sacred to them to stop activities they don't like?

      Of course I did! And it wasn't just me, lots of other people [wikia.com] did too.

  • NIMBYs have used "environmental concerns" for a few decades to try to scuttle things they don't like, I suppose it was only a matter of time before someone tried to use religion. There have been telescopes at that site for over 4 decades, if there religion was offended it was done and over with 2 decades ago.

  • Since we're talking about public land, just put it to a referendum. If the majority of Hawaii's residents want it, go ahead and build it. If not, cancel it.

    -jcr

  • In construction parlance, to "pull a permit" means to obtain a permit. The context makes it clear that isn't what the court did. TFA uses better wording: the permit was invalidated.
  • by jensend ( 71114 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @12:00PM (#51049857)

    Maunakea isn't like the Matterhorn. The area on the Maunakea plateau that's high enough etc to suit astronomers' needs is actually quite large, and the Thirty Meter Telescope's proposed location is at least a mile away from the summit and at least 500 feet lower.

    But about 8 of the existing dozen or so scopes are practically right on the summit. Much more intrusive both to native sensibilities and to tourists. Built before cultural sensitivity was a thing, I guess, and before native Hawaiians had done much to organize politically. I think those opposed to the TMT may well largely be objecting to "one more straw" rather than to this telescope considered in isolation.

    If all these scopes were planned for new construction now I think a reasonable compromise would be to disallow putting any of them above about the 13400' contour on the summit. And I imagine that by now many of the scopes on the summit are no longer all that scientifically useful anyways, having been eclipsed by bigger scopes and better technology.

    Why not have a trade- go ahead and build the TMT, which will be a big scientific boon, but promise to gradually phase out and demolish the scopes on the summit and try to restore the summit area to a relatively pristine condition?

  • Maybe I'm Cynical (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BinBoy ( 164798 ) on Thursday December 03, 2015 @01:29PM (#51050723) Homepage

    > vehemently protested the construction of the telescope for religious reasons.

    Maybe I'm cynical but I wonder if this is more about wanting a payoff than anything religious.

  • The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion.

    Other reasons might be fine as a basis for revoking the permit. But it certainly does look like the Hawaiian Supreme Court blew it on this one.

  • I wonder how the Hawaiians will feel about this 200 years from now. At one point, the Holy Roman Church declared the Earth to be the Center of the Universe, and the Sun -like everything else- revolved around it. Not many, if at all, still believe that. Cultures and religions change over time.

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