HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - One of the world’s most well-known astrophysicists has weighed in on the Thirty Meter Telescope controversy, saying Native Hawaiians should have the “entire say” about what happens to the mountain.
In an interview on the Joe Rogan Experience that was posted Thursday, Neil deGrasse Tyson talked at length about the controversial project, advocating for the telescope’s construction while acknowledging that there are clearly a lot of nuanced issues related to doing so on Hawaii Island.
“The Native Hawaiians, from what I’ve read, view the mountain as a sacred place. To put yet another telescope there becomes invasion of sacred land,” said deGrasse Tyson. “There’s a standoff. ... At the end of the day you have to ask, how are you going to make decisions going forward?”
Friday marks the 54th day of protests at the base of Mauna Kea, where hundreds of people continue to gather to prevent construction crews from accessing the mountain’s summit.
Those protesters, deGrasse Tyson suggests, are among the people who should come together democratically to vote on the issue.
“Are you going to let Native Hawaiians be the deciders of their own fate, and is that democratic? Okay, then let (them) vote,” said deGrasse Tyson. “If the mountain is viewed as sacred by the natives, the natives should have entire say about what happens to the mountain. That’s how I think that should be.”
There are question marks surrounding exactly how such a vote would take place, but deGrasse Tyson openly advocated for the construction of the telescope somewhere, even if it ends up being in a location outside Hawaii.
“For every generation of new, large telescopes that have been built, it has deepened and increased our understanding of our place in the universe,” he said.
The world-famous scientist specifically appealed to the protesters who call Mauna Kea a sacred place, saying that the work of astrophysicists, in many ways, enhances our spiritual connection with the world.
“If you have power over what happens on that mountain, and it is sacred to you, because (Mauna Kea) is important to your sense of place in this world, I can tell you that what we learn as astrophysicists from those mountaintops gives us a deeper understanding of who and what we are in this universe,” deGrasse Tyson said.
“I would say that whatever is your concept of god, be it the creator of the universe, the spirit energy that pervades all space and time, the discoveries of astrophysicists bring you closer to it.”