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National Astronomical Observatory of Japan Director General Hayashi Masahik: Save Mauna Kea by divesting from the TMT (Thirty Meter Telescope) project.

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National Astronomical Observatory of Japan Director General Hayashi Masahik: Save Mauna Kea by divesting from the TMT (Thirty Meter Telescope) project.
  
  

 


Why this is important

1) Mauna Kea is a sacred site. According to the Hawaiian cosmogony, Mauna Kea comes from the union between the Sky father (Wakea) and the Earth Mother (Papahanaumoku). Accordingly, Mauna Kea is considered to be a heavenly realm in which deities such as Snow Goddess Poliahu and her sisters are said to abode. Historically speaking, the only human activities allowed upon the mountain’s summit are rituals and ceremonies.

2) Protection of ecosystems and endangered
species. The ecosystems of Mauna Kea are endemic and unique, inhabited by endangered plants and insects. As such, it is designated as a “Conservation District” under federal and state laws. Spring water and the water from the glacier flow into the largest aquifer in the pacific, which runs through streams into the ocean. This aquifer is a vital source of fresh water for humans and other life forms. The environmental impact statement for
the TMT project itself concluded that UH’s astronomy-industry development has caused “substantial, significant and adverse” impacts on Mauna Kea’s cultural, archaeological, and historical resources, and that the TMT would add to those adverse impacts. There have been several reports of environmental pollution incidents from the existing telescopes, including 7 liquid mercury leak incidents. Thus, there is a growing concern for the likelihood of a catastrophic impact on the fragile ecosystems and endangered species wrought by the construction of an 18-story building with 2 stories underground, taking up an expanse of 9 acres.

3) International Legal Implications. With the coup
d’etat of 1893 that purportedly overthrew the Hawaiian Kingdom, both the government and crown lands were appropriated and transferred from the Republic of Hawaii, and then the US territorial government, to the State of Hawaii as “ceded lands.” However, due to the violation of international law at that time of the coup d’etat, the absence of a treaty of annexation, and to the absence of the conveyance of the titles of the kingdom government lands and crown lands, the representatives of Native Hawaiians and the Hawaiian Kingdom have been pursuing international legal actions through the United Nations, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Criminal Court, and the US State Department over the issues of land titles and sovereignty. Thus, any lease transactions over and the developments on the lands that belong to the kingdom government and the crown may be considered unlawful, and will only complicate the process of resolving the international legal disputes.

4) Domestic Legal Implications. In 1968, the State
of Hawai’i leased the summit of Mauna Kea to the University of Hawai’i, along with permission to construct a telescope. Since then, the University of Hawai’i has allowed the construction of 13 telescopes. The court case against TMT, based on the Conservation District Use Permit, is still unresolved, as it is currently being heard by the Hawaii State Supreme Court. Nonetheless, the University of Hawai’i and the Telescope International Observatory have been very forceful in pushing forward the construction of TMT, without waiting for the high court to rule.


5) Japan’s close ties with Hawaii, Native
Hawaiians, and the Hawaiian Kingdom. Historically, Japan has had a very close relationship with Native Hawaiians and the Hawaiian Kingdom. The first article of the 1871 treaty between Japan and the Hawaiian Kingdom states: “There shall be perpetual peace and friendship between His Majesty the King of the Hawaiian Islands, and His Imperial Japanese Majesty, the Tenno, their heirs and successors, and between their respective subjects.” Subsequently, King Kalākaua met with imperial majesty Mutsuhito, which marked the emperorʻs historical first meeting with a foreign head of the state during the Meiji era. At the present historical juncture, in which
the Native Hawaiiansʻ movement for the revitalization of their indigenous culture and the restoration of self-determination are developing on a global stage, we the undersigned belive that our support for Native Hawaiians in their struggle to protect Mauna Kea could bring a more just and peaceful future to the world.


Posted June 24, 2015
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