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Open letter on TMT to the UC Santa Cruz Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
by UCSC Signatories
Thursday Jul 25th, 2019 8:44 AM
We write to you today as colleagues at the University of California, Santa Cruz to express concern about recent events on the Mauna Kea summit with regards to the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). We urge the astronomy community to recognize the broader historical context of this conflict, and to denounce the criminalization of the kia’i (protectors) on Mauna Kea. We urge the TMT collaboration and the government of Hawai’i to desist from further arresting or charging protectors, to remove military and law enforcement personnel from the summit, and permanently halt the TMT project on Mauna Kea.
This past week, the TMT International Observatory (TIO) attempted to resume construction, facing off with kia’i (protectors) including elders and children. On Wednesday, July 17, thirty-three people were arrested– most of them Hawaiian elders—as they blocked a road that prevented crews from reaching the construction site atop Mauna Kea. Despite opposition from Native Hawaiian community, community organizations, organizations of people of faith, environmental advocates, and grassroots groups both in Hawaiʻi and abroad, TIO has pushed forward this massive project. Mauna Kea is considered sacred by Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians), who say the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope was approved without consulting their communities. Just hours after the arrests were made on Wednesday, Hawai’i’s Democratic Governor David Ige signed an emergency order granting police even more power to clear the way for construction equipment. In the face of necessary and required legal constraints on development and environmental degradation, TIO has sought every opportunity to evade the spirit and even the law to force completion of this project.

In contrast to proponents of the TMT, opposition to the project does not reflect hostility to science. As UCSC affiliates, we ourselves are passionate about science and recognize that Native Hawaiians are not opposed to science or to discovery. From Oceanic navigators to university researchers, Native Hawaiians embrace the search for knowledge. But we must recognize the historical and political context in which science, and TIO, operate. Hawaii is an occupied and colonized space. Native Hawaiians have been stripped of control over their land by US settler colonialism. They have faced relentless attacks on their homelands, their ways of life, and their sacred sites. These attacks have, like the current TIO attack, sometimes been wrapped in the noble cloak of science and misleading narratives of progress versus the past. To the extent that those attacks have been endorsed by civil and judicial authorities, we must remember that those units represent the same government that has stripped Native Hawaiian people of their sovereign rights as recognized in international law.

TIO is yet another such attack, and a particularly devastating one. By supporting it, the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at UCSC commits itself to further complicity in the abuse of power that runs counter to what science should be.

This is not just about a telescope, this is about the rights of Kanaka Maoli to stop the environmental and cultural desecration on a sacred mountain. This must stop. The time is now. And because the University of California, and specifically the UCSC Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, is a partner with TIO, it has the power and thus the responsibility to act.

We urge you to oppose the notion that mainstream science should be mere domination of those less powerful. We urge you to demand that this project be halted.

We powerfully suggest that you and the TIO partners consider moving the TMT project to the Canary Islands instead of participating in the criminalization of Indigenous people and their lands.

Note: This was adapted from an open letter on TMT written by professors of U of Minnesota.

[Please follow the link for the current list of signatories. Photo: A view of the Mauna Kea volcano of Hawaii from the ocean, Vadim Kurland, CC BY 2.0]
by UCSC Signatories Thursday Jul 25th, 2019 8:44 AM

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