​The Future of Maunakea Rests in the Hands of Hawaii’s People

By Doug Simons and Hilton Lewis

The international astronomical community has converged in Honolulu. The timing—in the midst of the controversy surrounding the construction of TMT on Maunakea—has motivated some who oppose TMT to engage these distinguished guests, hoping they will take a stand. Though well intended and keen to see a lasting, peaceful resolution, these visiting astronomers are not the solution to Hawaii’s longstanding issues. They will leave just a few short days from now, returning to distant countries, yet our challenges will persist. It is our responsibility—those of us who call Hawai‘i home and care deeply about the future of Maunakea—to come together, listen to each other, and find a new path forward.

The cultural, spiritual, historical, scientific, and political perspectives being discussed in our community today are the building blocks of resolution. Maunakea is a critically important site of tremendous tradition and strength for the people of Hawai‘i. One of those strengths is the fact that Maunakea is the foremost site for astronomical observation in the world, providing a significant fraction of the new knowledge of the universe available to all of humanity. The challenge before us, the people of Hawaii, is to come together to create a lasting, inclusive, and beautiful union of all of our strengths. We must find a holistic vision for Maunakea, as the pinnacle of our past and the beacon of hope for our future. The voices opposing TMT have given all of us the opportunity to create the next chapter in Hawaii’s history with Maunakea at its heart. Let us seize this moment and do this together.

We all have an enormous amount to learn from one another, for everyone’s benefit. We encourage the community to advance to the next stage in the healing process by sitting with each other to really learn and understand our different perspectives and to discuss the possibilities of the future collectively, cognizant of the past.

It is essential that we are all informed with clear and reliable information, to make the best decisions. Personally, we are distressed to continue to see inaccurate statements made against TMT, which is often characterized as an enormous structure, bigger than all the rest combined, that has not been subjected to a rigorous review. In reality, TMT will be 43 feet taller than the existing Subaru Observatory, have a footprint comparable to Keck Observatory and has successfully undergone a seven-year thorough review and approval process. Likewise, we know that we do not understand all of the views and facts surrounding Maunakea from the Hawaiian cultural perspective. All of these points of view are what we, the people of Hawaii, need to understand together.

This is a crucial time for Hawaii. It is crucial for all of us who live in and love Hawaii to sit together and find common ground through face to face, eye to eye, dialog. It is up to us to define a long term future for Maunakea that honors its important cultural history, provides a platform for building a stronger cultural future, protects its environment, and strengthens Hawaii’s stature as the preeminent spot in the world for observing the universe. Let us come together, share a meal, listen to each other and learn. Let us sit together so that we can stand together around Maunakea, the mountain we all love. 

Please click here to get answers to more questions being raised about TMT and astronomy on Maunakea.