The world's most controversial telescope
10:51

The world's most controversial telescope

Science
The peak of Mount Acia, home to mor than a dozen astronomical facilities is one of the best places of the world to observe the cosmos. That's why it has been selected as the future home of the 30 meter telescope, or TMT for short. This massive next generation ground based telescope will cost over a billion dollars. And we'll be able to see farther and deeper into space than any telescope currently in existence. But this cutting edge technology is falling way behind schedule, because down at the base of Mount of chaos, on top of lava rocks that last flowed thousands of years ago, a group of Native Hawaiians are staying around the clock, risking arrest. To peacefully block construction of the TMT. This means more to our people than anything they could put up there. Anything, it's not for human beings to tride upon. From the TMT office in Pasadena, California. It's an over simplification they're just saying its a telescope, it's really about broader issues. To the eruption of Hawaiian pride, culture and history, keeping the billion dollar project at bay. What this battle is about is aligning scientific progress with moral progress. I wanted to learn what exactly makes the TMT the world's most controversial telescope. [MUSIC] When I first learned about TMT, it's a collaboration that involves the United States, China, India, Japan, Canada. That's half the world's population. And with all the things going on in the world, here's a project that's come together where everybody's working as friends and as peers and as colleagues, I thought, well, I want to be a part of that. As an astronomer, just the things that TMT will discover from the moment of first light in our universe. To maybe answering questions about, is there life on other planets? Are there planets we can visit with breathable atmospheres? With its 30 meter primary mirror and adaptive optics technology, the TMT promises to produce images 12 times sharper than those of the Hubble Space Telescope. Only a handful of sites around the world are feasible for such an enormous sensitive instrument. And with the ELT and GMT telescopes already under construction in Chili, the southern hemisphere is pretty well covered in the giant telescope department. That's why the TMT has settled on a location in the northern hemisphere where it can observe parts of the sky its competitors in the south cannot. There's just one big problem. The TMT is preferred location is much more than a place for stargazing. Late 2000s 2008-2009. Hawaii was selected as the site for the telescope after studying other places and and that's really when an intense period of community consultation really began [MUSIC] Well, we're in this nice little cute white tent on kind of a hot day, between Mauna Kea and our sister mountain, Mauna Loa. Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain on the Earth, the most sacred mountain to the Hawaiian people were the sky father meets the Mother Earth. It is the whole life stream of our people. It's our creation story. I think just about everybody who's been to Monica agrees that it is special and spiritual. And even if you think it is sacred, what does that mean? My mother used to call Monica Unblemished. Before you come up to it, and when you leave it. The partners in TMT if you think about it, have been doing astronomian in Hawaii for over 50 years. It's not the first time this has happened, right? There's been broken promises over the course of generations now, saying we're gonna do three telescopes, then six, then twelve. We're at 22 now, 13 different facilities, and yet they need one more, larger than ever. We were invited in in the 60's because a tsunami devastated the east side of Hawaii island, and astronomy was seen as a way to come in and really revitalize the economy. Well, the arguments they use to justify the construction of this massive Structure on our sacred mountain is jobs, is a boost in our economy. But we're talking like a dollar per person, per year, like that's how much they think our culture is worth. Hawaiian people did not saw off parts of the mountain to study the stars. Thirty-eight feet Was cut off pool key, a mountain adjacent for Subaru and Keck. There were bones of our high chiefs buried there, just pushed over the dirt. There people who have engaged in this process for 10 years opposing us in that legal process. Who have now said even though that process is over, we're now going to oppose you outside of the law. [MUSIC] 1600, It's been that many days since it became absolutely crystal clear to the TMT Corporation, the State of Hawaii that the people will not allow this to happen. On July 17, police arrested more than 30 Hawaiian elders. Some of them in their 70s and 80s, for blocking the road to the summit of Mauna Kea. They were eventually released and allowed to return to Mauna Kea. But the emotional impact of those arrests, sent shock waves through the community. Nobody, including us, wants to have a situation where strong force is going to be needed, in order for an astronomical facility To be constructed, that's what nobody wants. If there's another location that's fit for use, and is not on sacred land, it seems absurd that you would insist on building it in a sacred space that requires you to arrest native people to make it happen. The TMT does have a backup location in the Canary Islands. But some approvals are still pending, and the backers of the TMT remain committed to Monicare. Monicare La Palma have very similar qualities in terms of how many nights a year are clear, that sort of thing. So it's a very good site. They're both very good sites. Monicare is higher and drier than the Palma, which makes it better for astronomy. And particularly good for something called mid infrared observation. You just have to be very clever and using the nights of the year which are best suited for those types of observations. And there's more of those nights on Mauna Kea than there is in the La Palma but but it's still possible. Hawaii will be the one will go and send you off Will even go to Spain aware lays and welcome you to the site you're going to use because you're not going to use this one. The repercussions for TMT going are severe in terms of reputation of Hawaii worldwide in terms of law and order in the state, but also in terms of addressing these social issues for Native Hawaiians Do something about yourselves. We'll be fine. While the TNT does have the support of Hawaii state government and supreme court, it must be said that the amount of protectors blocking the telescope have a strong respect for Hawaiian law and order as well. The definition of desecration is [UNKNOWN]. Is the defacing or destruction of any image or property that would enrage a population. [LAUGH] It's a prime example of HR 711-1107. Our presence here, and what's happening across the whole Hawaii island and [UNKNOWN], [INAUDIBLE] Legitimising dmg as a desecration. They also have strict rules of conduct on the mountain. Rule number one is something called Kaku Aloha, which describes the protectors peaceful and respectful form of resistance. Kaku Aloha has taken very seriously, because the stakes could not be higher. It only takes one of us, just one one time to lose it. For everybody. One simple mistake, and they got everything they got to take us off. The demonstrations on the mountain, have attracted high profile visits from people like, The Rock, Damian Marley, and Jason Momoa, as well as a substantial social media following. Social media has been able to take this issue worlwide. The only thing I would say, this does not teach the truth. This teaches an image. To really understand the truth, at some point in your life, come. Come. I am very grateful for the Mauna protectors, for how peaceful they have been. They have Brought forward some really hard questions we should all listen and think about. It's that mindset, right? There's always another valley, there's always another continent, there's always another ocean, there's always another planet that's unsustainable and a really colonial western rear view that We're learning now doesn't work. The last and perhaps most important thing to understand about the controversy over the TMT is its place in Hawaiian history. Before the telescope's the sacred land was under the control of the Hawaiian monarchy, which was overthrown in 1893. With the support of the US government. 1.8 million acres of land were taken without consent or compensation including the summit area of Mauna Kea. That land belongs to the Hawaiian people and we're not giving that land up for anybody. We never gave it up to the United States and nor will we give it up to any foreign country or corporation. The overthrow is one of only a handful of things the US government has ever officially apologized for. The whole apology is worth reading but there's one part I wanna share with you now. Native Hawaiians are determined to preserve, develop, and transmit to future generations their ancestral territory and their cultural identity. There's no dichotomy between advancing science and protecting the rights of a marginalized people. That shouldn't be a choice. And if it is a choice, go with the marginalized people. We love you, forgive us for getting angry at you. But you know what, the truth is the truth. Let it lie where it lies Fight. We need to get started. We want to get started. But on the other hand, astronomy is for elevating all of humanity and maybe that's what's happening in Hawaii now. Recent polls have shown that support for the TMT is dwindling. And with the stalemate on Maunakea now in its third month, the future of the TMT in Hawaii is unknown. At this point only one thing is for sure. Maunakea access road will remain closed until further notice. [MUSIC]

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