Native Hawaiians have been protesting the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, or TMT. Protesters are opposed to the intended location of the TMT on Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano in Hawai'i, with famous figures such as Dwayne Johnson and Jason Momoa showing support and joining the protests.
Plans to build the TMT on Mauna Kea were first made almost ten years ago, with the permit to build the telescope being repealed at first. However, another permit was issued in the fall of 2018. Construction was scheduled to begin during the week of July 15, 2019, sparking renewed protests of the location of the TMT.
Mauna Kea is particularly desirable as a location for the TMT due to its height, the climate, and the lack of light pollution in the area. However, the volcano is also sacred ground to Native Hawaiians. It is believed to be the site of the origin of the Hawaiian people and is also the burial site of many of their ancestors. The construction of the TMT would place an 18-story building on Mauna Kea. Furthermore, some of the structure will be underground, digging into and desecrating sacred land.
While the TMT will aid in new astronomical observations and discoveries, its construction shouldn't happen at the cost of an indigenous people's sacred grounds. Mauna Kea may be an ideal location, but there are also backup locations for the TMT, such as the Canary Islands. Protesters have emphasized that Native Hawaiians are not anti-science. They are not opposed to the actual purpose of the TMT but feel that there was no clear consent given from natives to build the telescope on Mauna Kea. Additionally, the construction of the TMT stirs up a history of colonialism in Hawai'i and among indigenous peoples as a whole, as these protests mirror the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016. Native Hawaiians feel that the rights of indigenous peoples have been repeatedly ignored, with the TMT only being the latest example.
There are many ways to aid in the fight against the TMT construction on Mauna Kea. The most accessible methods are contacting key figures such as Governor David Ige. For college students, check if your school is a part of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), which is backing the TMT, and contact your school to oppose the construction of the TMT.