The Stars Do Not Align for the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea in Hawaii

Future-ish Case Study | 24-01

Author | Sean G. Schmidt

Publication Information | Future-ish, 2024. Published in Schmidt, S. G. (2024). Future-ish: case studies and context for exploring the science, design, and culture shaping the future (2nd ed.). Innovative Ink Publishing.


The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is a proposed new astronomical observatory on the Island of Hawaii in the Hawaiian islands. The mountaintop of Maunakea, a sacred mountain to the Native peoples of Hawaii, was selected as the preferred location for the telescope, but the project has faced opposition from the start from Native Hawaiians and activists around the world due to the cultural significance of the area, as well as ongoing and prospective environmental impacts to the high-elevation ecosystem of Maunakea. Few, if any, options remain for the project to move forward. A comprehensive analysis of the controversy suggests that the situation is not a simple case of science versus culture. Rather, it is a conflict between commercial science and traditional culture and an example of ongoing disregard and disrespect for people and place.

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