“Astronomy is about as pure and as clean as you can get, so what’s the big deal?”
– David Jewitt, quoted in the New Scientist
The quote above is part of a well-known UCLA astronomer’s response to protests against the construction of the Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. From Jewitt’s perspective, proposals to build notorious polluters such as coal-fired power plants or factories on such a site might justifiably cause a ruckus. But why, he wonders, should the ‘pure and clean’ work of astronomers raise problems? The assumptions behind this line of thinking are preventing proponents of the TMT from understanding and engaging constructively with the protests.
Since mid-April 2015, work on the planned 18-storey, $1.4 billion TMT structure has been non-violently disrupted by protests led by indigenous Hawaiians, who see the project as the desecration of a sacred…
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