(BIVN) – Hawaiʻi County Councilmember Tim Richards, a sixth generation kamaʻaina representing the Kohala district, spoke out in favor of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Wednesday, as the council considered passing a resolution in support of a proposed 60-day construction moratorium on the project.
Richards read this statement, which he also posted to social media:
TMT has been a polarizing episode in our County and state’s history. Many of us have friends and family on both sides of the issue. With any decision that affects so many I, without fail, try to seek the balance between the Culture, the Environment, and the Economy. I believe our greater community is trying to do the same. As we collectively move forward, it is my hope that all sides remain mindful and respectful of each other’s beliefs and opinions.
Where am I in this discussion? Simple. I am concerned about the future of our County and the generations to come. To plan for that future, we must worry more about what is ahead of us then what is behind us. We must be more concerned about our entire community’s success rather than any one group or portion thereof. I am not saying we ignore their concern, but we strive for middle ground. It is not reasonable to expect everyone will agree. We must embrace our past, learn from the mistakes, celebrate the successes, and use that to guide us forward.
TMT is not an argument between culture and science; they can and do coexist. Kamehameha the Great proved that as he embraced western technology.
It is not an argument of development or not; our County has tripled its population in my lifetime. Anyone who lives in our County must support growth, or they are ignoring the facts that they themselves are part of the increase. We need new horizons that can complement our island, our cultures, and our communities. TMT can be part of that fabric; culturally, economically, and environmentally.
It is not an argument on disrespect or desecration. Some may say that any structure on the mountain is a form of desecration. It is an opinion.
It is not an argument of access. Mauna Kea belongs to everyone. All citizens of our County can enjoy what the mountain has to offer. Our people also enjoy the access via the roads that were paid for by our astronomical community members; the current observatories.
It is not an argument of inherent value for the study of science and exploration. Every person in our County, state, and country enjoy the benefits of a modern life that comes from scientific discovery. Cell phones, computers, GPS, and even our cars; all are better and exist from the applied sciences that come from scientific exploration and understanding. Astronomy is part of that journey.
It is not a discussion on whether or not the location for TMT is appropriate; that is self-evident.
It is not an argument about adding another observatory to the 13 already there with many reported in disrepair. That is simply not true and a fabricated myth. Of the 13 observatories on the mountain, 11 are functioning, and two are being decommissioned awaiting their environmental impact statement for deconstruction.
It is not an argument about the potential contamination of an aquifer as there is no aquifer there.
It is certainly not an argument about a “foreign corporation “controlling TMT. TMT is a multinational organization with the US playing a significant role in TMT oversight. Any statement to the contrary is again another fabrication.
It is also not an argument about storage tanks of mercury on the mountain as that too is another made-up story to invoke fear. We should be far more concerned with the 50,000+ cesspools in our County right now that are affecting our aquifers and coastline waters and reefs.
It is also should not be an argument on the Process of approval. Though not always popular the project has been vetted through the Process, several times, and the courts have found it to have legal standing to proceed. I support the law of the land.
What I do believe is that this is an argument about having a Voice. A Voice in the Process and a Voice to participate in self-determination. Initially, things could and should have been handled better. Management of the mountain should have been better. Now, because of the extensive Process and the involvement of deeply caring, thoughtful community volunteers and leaders who insisted on raising the bar, it will be.
Disallowing TMT to go forward is shortsighted and is jeopardizing the future of our next generations. We need sound practices that are culturally sensitive, environmentally friendly, and supply us with economic resources that help our community flourish. (This includes funding for truly Affordable housing, good-paying jobs, healthcare, and environmentally friendly and renewable energy sources.)
I hope that we will learn from this harrowing period. History tends to repeat itself unless we choose to set a new course.
Planning for the success of our children and children’s children takes an understanding of our current challenges while combining them with future needs and the courage to get that done. Change is difficult, but not moving forward is dangerous, bodes a grim future for all and could be potentially fatal to the social fabric of our island community.
Richards was one of three votes against the 60-day TMT moratorium resolution. The Council ultimately passed the measure by a 6 to 3 vote.