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Nā Leo TV Hosts TMT Discussion Panel

Nā Leo TV Hosts TMT Discussion Panel
Nā Leo TV TMT Panel

Last Thursday night, Hawaii’s Nā Leo TV hosted one of their “Hawai’i Island Conversations” on the subject of TMT and Mauna Kea.

The stream, broadcast on Facebook Live from their studio in Hilo, featured six panelists total, TMT proponents Paul Coleman, Richard Ha and Douglas Ing, and petitioners Harry Fergerstrom, E. Kalani Flores, and Kealoha Pisciotta.

The group tackled various details of the TMT contested case, like permit criteria, concerns about desecration of “sacred” areas, environmental impacts of the project, economic benefits, STEM education, and more. Douglas Ing, an attorney overlooking the case, provided short but straightforward explanations of many of the legal aspects of TMT’s planning and construction but protesters insist that the project remains in violation of multiple laws.

Here’s a full image from the broadcast room below.

Nā Leo TV TMT Panel

TMT proponents (left) and petitioners (right) at Na Leo TV for a conversation on Mauna Kea and TMT. Image: Nā Leo TV

While at least a little bit of tension could be sensed throughout the panel (as it has been throughout the majority of the contested case), it was largely a very calm, civil discussion, wonderfully moderated by the channel’s Micah Alameda, who sported a very fair and unbiased demeanor.

We got in touch with Richard Ha following the livestream for some additional comments on the discussion:

[The TMT team] proved to me over these years that they are very community-minded, they did a lot of things that nobody else did.  I’ve worked very closely with them from the start, though I have not been paid. There are a lot of accusations of everyone being paid, but I refuse to compromise my integrity by being a paid consultant or anything.

On support vs. protest and how viral social media movements can sometimes actually cause harm when they don’t show the whole picture:

I’ve noticed in the last year that the pendulum is swinging back toward the center. It went way off to one side because of social media, actually. About two years ago when the movement went viral, it went all throughout the nation and everything.

The problem is that scientists have a hard time regrouping and trying to be accurate at the same time, because if an opponent makes two accusations in a row and scientists have to come back around to correct it, the audience has often already moved on to another subject.

Lastly, he noted that “In the absence of an economic driver like astronomy, we only have tourism and the military.”

One of the more interesting topics of conversation was timing. The petitioners noted that if TMT needs 7-10 years to be completed, that means 7-10 years of construction crews being up on the mountain, important cultural areas being inaccessible and/or disturbed by noise, and worries of TMT being at least partly outdated by the time it is completed.

Although the astronomy community also has concerns about the project’s timing – most want the telescope to be completed far sooner than 7-10 years so we can start to gather that cosmic data it will collect – we wonder if some exceptionally savvy budgeting and speedier construction, alongside the additional provisions from Governor Ige’s 10-point plan for Mauna Kea (like decommissioning and removing of the older and outdated telescopes and restoration of those areas), might offer a more acceptable balance for the petitioners, considering the conversation did end with them saying they’re open to compromise.

The Return of Hōkūleʻa

Following the broadcast, this weekend saw the return of Hōkūleʻa, a global, three-year Polynesian voyaging journey in an old-world canoe without any modern navigation instrumentation. The crew relied only on nature’s cues — ocean swells, stars, wind, birds — to sail across 19 countries, covering around 40,000 nautical miles (74,000 kilometers) and spreading a message of “malama honua,” which translates to “caring for the earth.”

Among the excited social media conversation surrounding the crew’s return, a TMT protester shared the following post on Facebook, essentially stating that you can’t celebrate the crew’s message and still support the construction of TMT on Mauna Kea:

Hōkūleʻa vs TMT

What they neglected to mention – and were reminded of by TMT supporters in the comments – is that Hawaiian navigator Chad Kalepa Baybayan, captain in the Polynesian Voyaging Society master navigator who guided the first voyage of Hōkūleʻa, supports the Thirty Meter Telescope and actually testified for the project during the contested case hearings.

After noting that his opinion “is my own and does not represent any of my organizations,” Baybayan went on to explain why he think TMT and Hawaiian cultural practices could co-exist:

I’m a modern Hawaiian. I believe in my traditions, I believe in my culture, but I think that’s consistent with our progression…to be highly reflective and highly motivated to learn about the world we live in, and so we ally ourselves with the tradition of curiosity and exploration.

Yet the comments continued with misinformation, lies, and constant moving of goalposts when TMT proponents provided the sources and citations they were asked for:

TMT Protester Paid Shills

The sub-thread continues for a little bit, with protesters consistently unable to provide evidence of all these “paid shills” for TMT, using fallacious and nonsensical arguments – like claiming that Baybayan looked “uncomfortable” during the hearings and therefore must have been paid off or blackmailed to be there – and avoiding directly answering questions from TMT supporters.

The TMT case still awaits both Judge Amano’s recommendation to the BLNR and the decision made by the following appeal to the Hawaii Supreme Court.

There is no deadline for the case’s conclusion, but all parties eagerly await a decision.

More: Na Leo TVBig Island Now, Hawaii Tribune-Herald

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