An effort to peer billions of light years into space is being called downright myopic. Backlash intensified Friday over a controversial plan to erect a massive telescope atop Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano, an area said to be considered sacred by Native Hawaiian groups. Following the arrest of 31 protesters at the site of the Thirty Meter Telescope, opponents are calling on Democratic Gov. David Ige and University of Hawaii President David Lassner to halt construction for 30 days so state officials can revisit the plan, Hawaii News Now reported.
The $1.4 billion telescope is being constructed by TMT Observatory Corp. Scientists hope to use the telescope to peer 13 billion light years into space and examine the universe in its infancy. Permits to build on the site were reportedly obtained after a seven-year public process.
Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano and the highest peak in the state of Hawaii, is an ideal location for a large telescope, but Native Hawaii leaders say the land is the site of their people’s origin story. Peter Apo, a trustee for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, told the Associated Press that a 30-day construction moratorium would help the two sides come to a long-term solution.
About 300 protesters assembled at the site Friday, the AP reported.
Last week, opponents penned a letter to Ige outlining their objections to the TMT in detail. For instance, they say the structure would violate legal restrictions that prohibit changes to Mauna Kea’s existing physical and environmental attributes, “such as natural beauty and open space characteristics.” They also wrote that “Mauna Kea has literally hundreds of sacred sites, including over 34 burials, some containing multiple bodies.”
A Change.org petition calling on the governor to halt construction of the TMT and stop arresting protesters gained more than 2,500 signatures in less than a day.