Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Telescope: 3 More Items

The 3 items below are drawn from today's UC Daily News Clips, which suggests that the telescope issue is of special and continuing interest to UCOP. That interest is not a surprise, since UC is a participant in the Hawaiian telescope venture. The key to what may or may not happen seems to be the governor of Hawaii, David Ige (who so far appears to want the issue somehow to go away - which seems unlikely).

The fact that some Hollywood types have seen this issue as a cause is not helpful, but hardly determinative. Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren apparently has taken a position which seems more linked to her Trump-related troubles in claiming Native American heritage (although Polynesians and Native Americans have different origins) than to any profound study of the matter.

Former governor and UC prez Napolitano might want to have a chat with Governor Ige. He has two unpleasant choices: yes or no. But governors are called "executives" because they are supposed to resolve impasses when possible, and make decisions when not possible. She might point out that expectation. The current chair of the UC Regents is John Pérez, a man who also comes from a political background and who also seems like a reasonable person who could play a useful role.

Maunakea vital to science of astronomy

Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Guenther Hassinger, 8-21-19
via UC Daily News Clips

As the former director of the Institute for Astronomy of the University of Hawaii, and the current director of science of the European Space Agency, I would like to give an outside/inside view on the conflict about the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii.

Maunakea on Hawaii Island is arguably the best site on the northern hemisphere to do astronomy. In the last half century there has hardly been an astronomical breakthrough where telescopes on Maunakea were not involved. Just consider black holes, dark matter, dark energy and the quest for life on planets around other stars — Maunakea has been at the forefront.

With respect for the Hawaiian host culture, more and more breakthrough discoveries have been given Hawaiian names, like the local supercluster of galaxies Laniakea, or the first interstellar visitor ‘Oumuamua. The role of Maunakea with TMT will remain vital in astronomy.

The observatory on the mountain was originally founded after the devastating tsunami of 1960 in Hilo with the explicit goal to develop astronomy as an economic driver. In the meantime, astronomy in Hawaii has an economic impact of more than $170 million per year, and provides close to 1,000 clean high-tech jobs with employment opportunities in STEM fields for local young people.

Beyond the simple numbers, astronomy diversifies the economy and gives local young scientific and technical talents a wealth of opportunities to realize their potential without having to leave family and friends to pursue a career elsewhere. These opportunities are not just for astronomers — the workforce has more than 50% local employees.

The most important aspect in this workforce pipeline is education, starting in schools and ending with higher education. The fascination of astronomical research attracts a whole generation of children into the world of science. Every year the Journey through the Universe reaches more than 7,000 school kids in Hilo; the HI-Star and Maunakea Scholars programs train local high school kids in STEM fields; and the Akamai program provides high-tech internships, many of them for Native Hawaiians. The academic astronomy education in the UH system is among the finest and most attractive in the U.S.

As the highest peak in all of Polynesia, Maunakea has also enormous importance to Native Hawaiians and is among the most revered sites in the state. The resurgence of the Native Hawaiian culture and the drive for political self-determination in the later 20th century led to significant tensions with the growth of astronomy in Hawaii, culminating in the current conflict around the TMT.

Admittedly, the management of astronomy on the mountain was less than optimal in the first decades of the observatory. However, the university and the state of Hawaii have learned their lessons — and the mountain management improved dramatically over the last two decades, “ … balancing the competing interests of culture, conservation, scientific research, and recreation” (state audit, 2014).

TMT has added to this change of paradigm, taking to heart the environmental and cultural concerns and minimizing its impact. With substantial lease payments and generous support to the education and workforce pipeline it has already benefitted thousands of members in the local community. TMT had to go through an arduous process of legal challenges over the last decade, but has cleared all hurdles with the latest Hawaii Supreme Court ruling.

I have personally participated in many of these deliberations, often side by side with the protesters. I have also tried to help find common ground for a solution of the conflict.

But the TMT is like a lightning rod and a highly visible pole to hoist the flag of Hawaiian sovereignty. This way TMT and astronomy in Hawaii have been taken hostage for a much bigger cause, which they cannot solve — regardless of whether TMT will be built in Hawaii or not. If we cannot find a way to share this majestic mountain for culture and science, I am afraid that astronomy in Hawaii will dwindle.


State senator calls on governor to enforce the law at Mauna Kea

Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Kevin Dayton, 8-21-19, via UC Daily News Clips

State Sen. Lorraine Inouye, whose district includes Mauna Kea, is calling on Gov. David Ige to resolve the impasse that has blocked construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, and is calling on Ige to “protect all of us with your leadership.”

In an open letter to Ige published Tuesday in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, Ino­uye told Ige that “we cannot pick and choose. Laws must be followed, all laws, all the time. Public trust requires bold leadership: Difficult decisions need to be made about Mauna Kea, its management, and how we address the needs of our host culture.”

Inouye, a former Hawaii County mayor who has served as a senator for 15 years, acknowledged that “in the past, management of beloved Mauna Kea was haphazard. I know, governor, that wasn’t on your watch. Frustration with the past does not justify blocking the public road to the top of the mountain. It’s civil disobedience.”

Inouye said in her letter that “we have made significant progress improving the management (of Mauna Kea) in recent years.”

“Certainly, there’s a great deal more to be done to recognize past wrongdoing and level the playing field for our Hawaiian community. Illegally blocking the public road to the top of Mauna Kea, however, does not help solve the challenges,” she wrote.

Ige did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment on the letter by Inouye.

Maunakea is a gift from God

By Leningrad Elarionoff, August 21, 2019, Hawaii Tribune-Herald

The demonstration on Maunakea against the Thirty Meter Telescope presents only one side of the story. It also only tells one side of the cultural issues that are involved. Please allow me to tell the other side.

I start with my qualifications to expound on this subject. I am half Russian and half Hawaiian.

My Russian father ran from Russia and legally entered the United States, became a citizen, then came to Hawaii to work on Parker Ranch. My mother was born at home in the pasture halfway between Kahua Ranch and Kawaihae. Her maiden name was Awaa, a name given to her father’s family because of their physical ability as reflected in their stature. Hawaiians in those days were called according to the character they displayed or some other physical attribute. The term Awaa described their physique as being muscular. It has been said in family circles that the name was earned from being the lead paddlers on voyaging canoes.

Due to conflict with the ranch bosses, my father was fired, so the family moved to Ka‘u where I was born the fourth of five boys in Nov. 1938. In school, we Hawaiians kids were the brunt of many negative jokes by white teachers, causing some to rebel and others to try twice as hard to prove equality, or in some cases, superiority. After high school, I chose to attend college in California before returning to live in Waimea.

Early Hawaiian explorers were not pagans. Our family history through kupuna stories tell of the ancient Hawaiians arriving at South Point. Their goal was achieved by following the stars, the mano (shark) and the honu (turtle). Hawaiians refer to these creatures as aumakua, or guides. On the practical side, these creatures feed close to shore and, in the case of the turtle, it eats seaweed that grow on the shoreline. Therefore, following one of these creatures in the high seas will likely lead you to shallow waters where they feed. They were “guides to land” is a practical concept.

Arriving at South Point, the first Hawaiians built a small heiau into which they placed two large boulders. Later, Hawaiians and others claimed that these boulders were worshiped as the gods who brought them from Kahiki (a far off land) to Hawaii. This was a false conclusion. For clarification, these boulders originally were placed in this enclosure and named Hina and Ku. They depicted two outstanding characteristics of the god that brought the first Hawaiians to Hawaii. Hina refers to white hair or being old, ancient. Ku refers to being foundational, as in immovable, steadfast, “the same yesterday, today and forever,” unchanging.

Sometime in the 1950s, one of the rocks was stolen, and as time went by, the enclosure became an outhouse for the fishermen who frequented the area. I grew up in Ka‘u and witnessed the frustration and anger expressed by the old Hawaiian community over this desecration.

Further proof that the early Hawaiians were not pagans or idol worshipers is the fact that they eventually built a heiau, the City of Refuge, in Kona. The protocol involving the City of Refuge in Kona is the same as the City of Refuge recorded in the Bible. Besides that, the early Hawaiians believed that Jesus would someday return in the clouds of glory. When Captain Cook arrived in Hawaii with his sailing ship in full sail, they believed this was He. They treated him as a god until he got injured and bled as humans do. Being fooled for his benefit angered the Hawaiians, so they killed him.

In dealing with this issue, it is important to realize that not all Hawaiians are descendants of the early explorers, nor do they share the same spiritual beliefs. There were other Polynesians who came to Hawaii, shaped a piece of rock, or carved a piece of wood into some form then worship it as a god.

The Hawaiians, like every other nationality, have members in the community who will strive day and night, from sun up to sun down, to get ahead and better themselves. Others in that same community will just sit back and exist. Aloha allows us all to coexist irregardless of our differences.

The question in debate: Is Maunakea sacred? Many of us believe it is but for a different reason then those who are now demonstrating against the construction of the TMT.

Maunakea is the only peak anchored in the Pacific Ocean that provides for the excellent conditions to explore the heavens. The Bible verse in Psalms 19; 1 says that “the heavens declare the Glory of God.” There are those of us who would like to see what TMT will reveal about the glory of the God that brought the first Hawaiians to Hawaii.


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