Why do Hawaiians and environmentalists oppose a $1.4 billion project that promises a much-needed economic boost? And why do astronomers want to build a stadium-sized structure that will dwarf the 13 telescopes already on the summit of Mauna Kea?
Side by side the perspectives in this film offer a way into understanding the meaning of a mountain... why the mountain represents sacredness and the origins of the Hawaiian people, but is where other people go to find their origins.
MAUNA KEA AND THE ENVIRONMENTAL AND CULTURAL DIVIDE
Touted as the largest and most powerful telescope in the world, to astronomers, the TMT represents the dawn of a new era. Gordon Moore, founder of INTEL and one of TMT’s major funders, says it offers “… the potential to transform the study of the universe.”
Environmentalists argue that because the largest fresh water aquifer for Hawaii Island is on Mauna Kea, the potential for irreversible harm is too high a price to pay. They say to build a stadium sized structure and its 5,000-gallon hazardous chemical waste container in the same location as the island's fresh water aquifer and endangered and threatened species' habitats is a terrible risk.
But for the Hawaiian people, what began as an agreement to allow one telescope on Mauna Kea over 40 years ago has turned into a generational struggle to protect the mountain from endless acts of desecration. Traditionally, Hawaiians have regarded the summit as sacred. Today, it's also a symbol of cultural erasure and the ongoing assault on Hawaiian spiritual and religious practices, and rights to self-determination.
The TMT is backed by the financial power of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the University of California system, the California Institute of Technology, and the astronomy industries of India, China, Japan, and Canada.