Hundreds of people on the island of Hawaii are demonstrating this week against building a telescope on the top of the mountain Mauna Kea.
The protesters say the land at the top of the mountain is holy. Scientists say it is perfect for a huge telescope that will help them answer basic questions about the universe.
This week’s demonstrations came after state officials said they would close the road to the top of Mauna Kea. Workers planned to use the road to start bringing construction equipment for the telescope.
As a result, a group of protesters began blocking the road early Monday morning. Some elders sat on chairs and tied themselves together with rope. Other protesters lay on the ground and chained themselves to metal bars. They stayed until police went home in the afternoon. No one was arrested. Work on the telescope did not begin.
One activist said lying on the road for 11 hours was difficult. “It was so cold at 4 o’clock in the morning,” said Walter Ritte. “It was a test of our fortitude. This mountain is like our last stand.”
While the protesters blocked the road, officials put up barriers to keep them safe from speeding cars.
The Honolulu Star Advertiser newspaper reported that government officials spoke about keeping the situation peaceful. Some asked the public to “drive with aloha” in the area, the newspaper reported. Mayor Harry Kim said in a statement, “We are all ohana of this island community.” “Ohana” means family.
The project has been approved by the state’s Supreme Court, and the state has said the company behind the telescope can begin building. The company is made up of a group of universities in California and Canada, with partners from China, India and Japan.
Protesters say they will continue objecting to the project. Their efforts have already delayed it for several years. Scholars note that ancient Hawaiians consider the mountaintop “kapu,” or forbidden. Only the highest-ranking chiefs were permitted to climb to Mauna Kea’s summit above the clouds.
Today, the land belongs to the state government. It leases the area to the University of Hawaii for telescopes and observatories.
The proposed telescope would have a mirror 30 meters across, making it the largest telescope of its kind in the world. It is expected to cost 1.4 billion dollars to build.
Supporters of the new telescope say the instrument will not only make important scientific discoveries. It will also bring educational and economic opportunities to Hawaii.
I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.
Words in This Story
fortitude –n. mental strength and courage that lets someone face danger
construction –n. the act or process of building something
chain –n. to fasten, hold, or connect (someone or something) with a chain
forbidden –adj. not permitted or allowed
highest-ranking –adj. highest-level
summit –n. the highest point of a mountain
opportunity –n. an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done; chance