Battle for the heavens

Mauna Kea demonstration
Demonstrators opposed to the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii block the road leading to the summit. Photo by Bruce Asato / Honolulu Star-Advertiser via Los Angeles Times.

For astronomers, building an enormous telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano could be a “Galileo moment” — a chance to “peer through space-time to the beginning of the universe.” For many Native Hawaiians, it would be a desecration of the sacred place where Sky Father and Earth Mother meet.

Homelands’ Sandy Tolan traveled to the mountain in July to speak with demonstrators who had blocked the road to the summit to protest the start of construction. He also interviewed astronomers and other supporters of the project, many of whom were upset by the arrest of some of the protesters.

The action, Sandy writes in the Los Angeles Times, was “part of a larger struggle over indigenous rights and the legacy of colonialism.” It is a topic he knows well after reporting a series of articles and radio stories on the opposition to oil and gas pipeline projects around the country. While the status of the telescope has not been resolved, the state has issued a two-year extension of its deadline for the start of construction.

Read Sandy’s report in the Los Angeles Times.