HomeNative HawaiianOpponents of telescope construction on sacred land in Hawai‘i file UN petition
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Opponents of telescope construction on sacred land in Hawai‘i file UN petition

On July 17, opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) filed a United Nations (UN) petition asking for intervention in what they say are violations of Native Hawaiian rights to self-determination and other civil and political rights, The Breach reports.

The TMT is an extremely large telescope whose planned building site is Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the world from below sea level to summit. According to the petition, Mauna Kea is “a sacred site of immense religious, spiritual, and cultural importance for Native Hawaiians.”

Mauna Kea is already the homes of 13 telescopes. This is because its environmental conditions—dry air near the summit, absence of clouds and light pollution and cold temperature—are perfect for “a revolutionary understanding of the universe,” according to NPR.

Though it has been almost two decades since the TMT was first conceptualized and 15 years since Mauna Kea was chosen as its location, construction has stalled due to strong opposition from protests, blockades and legal challenges. For the coalition behind the UN petition, however, the fight for Mauna Kea is not over.

“Though construction of the TMT on Mauna Kea has been temporarily adjourned due to mass opposition, this construction may potentially restart at any time,” the petition reads, adding that intervention “is thus necessary to prevent further and irreparable harm to Native Hawaiians’ lands, practices, and sacred sites.”

The petition targets Canadian institutions in particular for their involvement in the multi-national project, asking that the UN request updated information about the project, including a copy of the master agreement between academic and governmental institutions across five countries (Canada, China, India, Japan and the U.S.) supporting the TMT. It also asks that the UN recognize the TMT’s human rights violations, that Canadian institutions immediately withdraw funds and divest from the project and that Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) members and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples visit Hawai‘i to prepare a report on the situation.

This petition was filed on the fourth anniversary of protests in July 2019, during which about 30 Hawaiian elders were arrested after they erected a blockade on the road leading up to Mauna Kea’s summit to halt construction.

Opposition to the construction of the TMT can also be found in a Change.org petition that has garnered over 480,000 signatured and a 2019 Native Hawaiian Survey study, which found that about 88 percent of 1027 respondents (about 97 percent of whom self-identified as of Hawaiian ancestry) oppose the construction of the TMT.

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