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Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Sierra Club Vice Chair: “Killing TMT will cause another drop in Sierra Club membership and stature; it is the Superferry all over again”
By News Release @ 1:10 AM :: 8171 Views :: Hawaii County , Greenmail

Concerning the New Mauna Kea Use Policy Statement

Modern astronomy began on Mauna Kea in a less environmentally and culturally sensitive era. Paying rent in telescope viewing time plus $1 was a Public Relations blunder only an astronomer could make…

We have raised the bar considerably on Mauna Kea and I am convinced that all parties have finally learned to respect and care about the cultural, environmental and social impact of astronomy on Mauna Kea.

A CMP is finally in place; it is by no means perfect and neither is the track record of the players involved but it is a start and it can get much better with experience and vocal constructive criticism.  It is also far better than having no CMP in place at all.

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project team is talking and acting responsibly. TMT will pay what amounts to use rent on Mauna Kea. They got serious about reducing visual impact on the mountain (my person issue). TMT’s EIS was accepted and no legal challenges were filed on process or content. The CSO telescope will decommission prior to TMT and TMT will take all its waste off the mountain and use no mercury at the site. TMT and the community college will train several dozen technicians for good jobs paying way more than Target or Tourism.

The telescopes on Mauna Kea all contribute to a maintenance budget to operate the MKSR, these funds could be handled independently. As a result of the law passed last year, lease rent funds from TMT will be separated from the University budget and put under control of an autonomous body to manage MKSR in a reliable and dependable fashion, membership of this body could include members of the community. This body could also be given the power to update and improve the CMP.  Migrating the MKSR lease to a more independent 3rd party and then revising the CMP seems like a reasonable approach as well, but preventing further development while this is done will halt all new projects in the Science Reserve for years.

I am troubled by the anti-TMT attitude. We are about to reward unprecedented respectful and responsible behavior by the TMT project with open opposition and legal action intended to stop construction. Many are saying the Sierra Club is anti-astronomy while others claim that the TMT is caught in the cross-fire of some long standing anti-UH vendetta.

I don’t know how to fix the past or change long held attitudes, but I know four things for certain:

  • Revoking the CMP and delaying new development will kill the TMT in Hawaii and force the project to go to Chile

  • Killing the TMT will kill astronomy in the US as all new projects go to Chile and taking their money and good jobs with them.

  • Killing astronomy on Mauna Kea will kill off the funding needed to protect Mauna Kea and bringing the trash and neglect that many magic places on the island now endure eg. Mauna Loa

  • Killing TMT will cause another drop in Sierra Club membership and stature; it is the Superferry all over again; ie suing and thereby cutting off communication amongst the parties rather than working with the parties to find a successful solution that is good for Hawaii’s environment and reputation around the world.

Al Beeman, August 24, 2010  (Beeman is currently Vice Chair of the Sierra Club Moku Loa Group)



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