To state the obvious, TMT in Hawaii has generated a lot of interest, conversation and concerns among the astronomy community and general public. The issues are complex and there are a lot of subtleties. I know I can’t address everything in this newsletter, but to follow are a few thoughts …
I think it’s fair to say that what is happening today in Hawaii isn’t just about the construction of TMT on Maunakea. Among those who remain opposed to the project are many who see TMT as an icon for what they believe is the wrong side in the much larger political issue of Hawaiian sovereignty. We respect those who express opposition and understand the pain they feel. However, TMT is a bystander in that conversation, which has been going on for many years. And whether or not TMT is built in Hawaii will not bring closure to it.
Although it may not appear this way at the moment given what is being shared and seen in social media, the majority of Native Hawaiians actually support the construction of TMT on Maunakea: An independent poll conducted by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in 2018 found that 72 percent of Native Hawaiians (registered voters) support TMT, 23 percent oppose it and 5% were undecided.
The TMT International Observatory LLC (TIO), a non-profit organization, was established in May 2014 to carry out the construction and operation phases of the TMT Project. The Members of TIO are Caltech, the University of California, the National Institutes of Natural Sciences of Japan, the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Department of Science and Technology of India, and the National Research Council (Canada); the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) is a TIO Associate. Major funding has been provided by the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation.