Amid mass protests, TMT supporter says telescope is being done ‘the right way’

Amber Imai-Hong
Amber Imai-Hong
Published: Jul. 23, 2019 at 5:20 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) -As hundreds of opponents gather at Mauna Kea, supporters of the Thirty Meter Telescope are waiting for it to be built.

“We really need these STEM jobs and Hawaii Island is so limited,” said Keaau native Amber Imai-Hong. “I do feel that astronomy and looking at the stars is very special as well and I feel that they can co-exist together.”

Imai-Hong, who is Native Hawaiian, says she’s worked at both the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope and East Asian Observatory. She says TMT is different.

“I’ve worked on the mountain. I understand that in the past, the astronomers and the astronomy community as a whole wasn’t very pono. They weren’t doing things the right way and I feel like that’s not a reason to disallow or not allow these people to come back and do things the right way,” she said.

She feels that some against the $1.4 billion telescope may not know enough about it.

'My family did not support Keck, we did not support some of the other telescopes being built. The reason we support TMT is because we believe it is being done the right way," she said. “I understood, I listened to what they (TMT) had to say, we contributed -- told them that we needed more funding for STEM education to pay their fare share of rent and they listened, they followed through.”

TMT officials say they’ve contributed more than $5.1 million towards education and scholarships in Hawaii.

Supporters of the project say it will provide limitless educational and research opportunities. They say it will also provide jobs to Hawaii residents.

Even as the TMT pledges to continue construction, there’s a sense among opponents that they’ve achieved a critical momentum.

“I think, we’re on the way, we’re on the way,” said Wailana Medeiros.

“I work but I can take off of work, they understand what I’m here for and what I stand for, and I will come here every single day if I have to to support my lahui,” Makenzie Kalawaia said.

Their leaders are already claiming victory and think they have a real shot at sending the project to the Canary Islands.

“This issue, this mountain, has unified the Hawaiian community, not only on this island, but statewide,” said long-time Hawaiian leader Walter Ritte.

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