[ExI] Hawaii telescope protests

Stuart LaForge avant at sollegro.com
Thu Jul 25 06:31:14 UTC 2019

Quoting John Clark:

> On Wed, Jul 24, 2019 at 3:19 PM Stuart LaForge <avant at sollegro.com> wrote:

>> *I think the wise thing to do in this situation would be to some sort of
>> concession to  them in exchange for building another telescope.*
> You think that hasn't been tried? At first the concession they wanted the
> astronomers to make was don't build the Thirty Meter Telescope, but now
> that they've had a taste of victory, not in a court of law but in the
> streets, or rather in the one and only street that leads up the mountain,
> they want one additional concession, stop all astronomy at the most
> important observatory in the world. So why are they really doing this?
> Because they can.

The astronomers? The astronomers don't have the authority to offer the  
native Hawaiians anything they would want. You have to get the  
government involved at least at the state level. The protestors are  
mostly pensioners and other elders who want to preserve the "old ways"  
and keep their culture and their tribal collective memory alive. While  
they probably have a price, I am pretty sure it is one that hapless  
astronomers wouldn't be able to afford to pay.

On the other hand 75% of Hawaiians, i.e. the younger generations WANT  
the 30 meter telescope. So the good news is that sooner or later most  
of the opposition will die of old age.

>> *For example, tell them that 13 is an unlucky number and that they should
>> allow a 14th telescope so as not to offend their god with bad omens.*
> Wow that sound really condescending, but that's OK I'd be fine with that if
> it worked. But it won't. A few years ago the astronomers offered to remove
> 2 existing telescopes if they stopped blocking the road and let them build
> the Thirty Meter Telescope, then there would only be 12 telescopes on the
> mountain, but the protestors could sense the desperation and despair of the
> astronomers so they said no. They wanted total victory and it looks like
> they're going to get it court ruling or no court ruling.

A mind susceptible to one superstition is susceptible to many which  
why religious people tend to believe in conspiracies, ghosts, and  
bigfoot. While using someone's superstitions to get your way with them  
might be somewhat manipulative, I see it as less condescending  than  
simply writing them off as moronic barbarians and refusing to engage  
them at all.

Believe me, if you can't sell the world's most powerful telescope to a  
bunch of people who claim to worship a sky god on the sky god's own  
mountain, then just face it, you suck at sales. The concession might  
as simple as calling it the Wanakea National Observatory in honor of  
their sky god. But until we are willing to listen instead of making  
demands, we will never know.

Stuart LaForge

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