Wednesday, November 02, 2016
Here is a case where careful PR and abiding by rules and regulations hasn't worked. A determined group of activists has stopped the thirty meter telescope (TMT) from being built on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. There is no appeasing the protesters who believe the mountain is sacred to their religion and scientists are defiling it. It makes no difference that other telescopes have already been built at the peak of the mountain. For some reason, the TMT has sparked anger. No amount of rational discussion, fact finding, persuasion has dented the implacable opposition. So, the leaders of the project are now talking about moving the instrument to the Canary Islands, even though the peak there is not as desirable as Mauna Kea for stellar observation. The project heads could try to bull their way through objections, but they will need the backing of Hawaiian courts to do so, and so far, they haven't had it. It would be a pity for the US to lose the TMT for religious reasons, but determined opposition can still win the day.