What is the goal of PUEO?

We support both culture and education for the people of Hawaii.  This is done through a variety of ways and by many different people.  Our goal is to create an environment conducive to learning and foster opportunities in Hawaii in technology and culture.  We are not simply proponents of a single cause but rather part of a long-term effort to give our youth an option to pursuing jobs on the mainland.

How are you funded?

We operate as a non-profit and as such we rely on the kindness of others to provide time, talent and materials.  We are not associated with any other non-profits and we have our own charter and board of directors.

We do not accept money from either the TMT organization or the University of Hawaii.  We are fiercely independent because we will sometimes hold views that are contrary to these organizations.  For example we oppose the decommission of the Hoku Kea or the educational telescope which was offered by Governor Ige to help move the TMT project forward.  We can not assert our full independence if we ever accepted support from those organizations.

What does PUEO mean?

In addition to our organization, Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities, Pueo is the name of a species of owl that only exists in Hawaii.  In the Hawaiian culture the pueo is often considered an ʻaumākua or a family god.  Nā ʻaumākua (plural of ʻaumākua) frequently manifested as animals such as sharks or owls. Nā ʻaumākua were worshiped at localities where they were believed to “dwell”. There are also many stories of nā ʻaumākua (in animal form) intervening to save their descendants from harm.

Pueo Protecting Hawaii

(Pueo image courtesy Dr. John Kormendy, currently at the University of Texas at Austin and formerly at University of Hawaii at Manoa.)

Aren’t there enough telescopes on Mauna Kea?

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is like going from 2G to 4G with your cell phone and a few of the telescopes on Mauna Kea are still running on 1G.  As part of the management plan older telescopes will be decommissioned and the land restored to its natural state.   The TMT will be able to explore parts of the universe that we’ve never seen before.  It may help solve the riddle of how everything began and how it might all end.  In the process it will offer us a glimpse into the hidden world that Mauna Kea has graciously lifted us up to see.

What does a Project like the TMT mean for Hawaii?

A large project like this brings in people and technology from all over the world.  And with that comes a lot of different opportunities.  Its a win-win situation and we should take advantage of this chance.  As a community we need to make sure that both sides can move forward together.  We have to work hard to understand how to make these opportunities relevant for native Hawaiians.  If we don’t do that, then we’ve failed and there shouldn’t be anything up on the mountain.  However the TMT offers us a new path forward by working with the community for the betterment of everyone.

What Do You Say to People Who are Against the Telescope Construction?

It is ok to oppose the TMT and it is ok to support it.  At the same time we ask everyone to carefully consider the facts for themselves and not just listen to what they are being told by us or anyone else.

Don’t just depend on what people are telling you.  Know both sides of the issues, and know it well.  Put aside your emotions or the desire to follow the cool thing to do.  Find out the facts for both sides.  Look at the big picture and consider the future for Hawaii and our ohanas.  We need opportunities that sustain Hawaii and ways to provide better education and opportunities for our children.

We are a society and we’ve been working to build our culture awareness for many years now.  We must continue to work together.

What about the rights of those who wish to practice their religion on Mauna Kea?

We must be respectful of our customary practices and be grateful for what we have today.  The infrastructure that is on the mountain today makes it possible for many of us to access this place which would be otherwise inaccessible for most people.  Mauna Kea was there long before humans and it will be there for a long time in the future.  Mauna Kea has always been a precious resource for Hawaiians from the adze stone quarry to places to hunt.  There’s no historical evidence that supports the entire mountain is sacred, but we must be respectful and careful with our precious mountain.  We must keep this resource as a place for both science and culture.

Further reading:  Sacred Mauna Kea

What about People who are Silent Supporters?

It is a very complex situation and a lot of people are afraid to voice their support.  But we shouldn’t be afraid, not in our own homes.  If we allow time to pass by without saying something, time will have a way of slipping by without our voices ever being heard.  Whether you’re Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, or whoever you’re part of our society and you have a voice.  We all have to move forward together.

Did PUEO form just to support the TMT Telescope?

No.  The core members have played import roles in providing educational opportunities for people in Hawaii for many years.  However the potential loss of the TMT project would deal a substantial negative impact to the entire island.  This loss was too big for us not to put our collective efforts in and try to keep this opportunity here in Hawaii.  So while the TMT was the impetus for forming, we have been and are committed to bringing future opportunities to Hawaii.

Who cares about astronomy when there are problems here on Earth?

Almost all knowledge we have gained, cultural or scientific, has its base in the past.  The TMT will be 13 times better than the Hubble Space Telescope.  This instrument will be able to look billions of years into the past events of our universe long before the Earth was formed.  The TMT’s goals are to understand and study the origins and compositions of the Universe, galaxies, black holes, stars, planets and even assist in the search for life. Knowledge like this will help us understand our own past and help predict our future.

For example, the discovery of the “Green House Effect” or Global Warming was not something that was discovered first on Earth.  Global warming was found on Venus where the surface temperatures were significantly higher than they should have been based on sun energy alone.  This puzzle led us to understand the role that green house gases play in trapping heat on a planet.  Without this knowledge we might not have ever understood the changes our own planet is going through.

Not only may it unlock unsolved mysteries it will also inspire millions of people to protect our planet and awe millions more about how marvelous the Universe is.  If you thought the Hubble photographs were amazing, wait until the TMT starts imaging the sky.

Hasn’t the TMT also Said the Project’s Impact is Severe?

The Environmental Impact Study is often quoted however it is not a statement about the TMT itself:

From a cumulative perspective, the impact on cultural resources has been and would continue to be substantial adverse and significant.

The words “a cumulative perspective” is important.  EIS is referring to all development done since the road was first bulldozed in the 1960’s.  This includes grazing animals, trails, hunting, etc.  There is no doubt that there has been an impact due to road access.  And there is no doubt that construction on the mountain is going to alter the landscape and part of the management plan is to restore those sites when the telescopes are removed.

The full EIS report indicates that the particular TMT project will not have a significant impact:

In general, the Project [TMT] will add a limited increment to the level of cumulative impact, but would not tip the balance of any specific cumulative impact from a less than significant level to a significant level.
If this issue is important to you then you should read the following studies and not rely on internet memes for information:
  • TMT Final EIS Vol. 1 – covers the project description; environmental setting, impact and mitigation; alternatives to the project
  • TMT Final EIS Vol. 2 – covers public comments from government, state, groups and individuals.  This 541 page report addresses concerns and comments from 100’s of messages.
  • TMT Final EIS Vol. 3 – of primary interest in this is Appendix D – Cultural Impact Assessment Report which covers cultural concerns about the TMT project including interviews with many native Hawaiians.  This report is about 1100 pages.

What about all the “Abandoned” Telescopes on Mauna Kea?

This is a myth that seems to be circulating on the internet.  There are no abandoned telescopes on Mauna Kea.  Two telescopes are scheduled for decommission the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKRIT) in 2017 and the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory.  This is all per the Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan implimented by the University of Hawai’i.  All telescopes are required to have a decommission plan and funding to completely remove and restore the site.

The only telescope that is non-functional is the UH Hilo’s Hoku Kea teaching telescope, which is about the size of a small shed.  This telescope is strictly a teaching telescope and only recently failed.  UH Hilo has a replacement telescope for this location and PUEO supports replacement of Hoku Kea’s telescope with the new design.  The Governor agreed with the protesters to remove it as an appeasement deal, however this decision was done in haste and it will only hurt the future eduction and opportunities that would eliminate the world’s best 100% educational telescope.

So of the only 13 telescopes, 2 are being decomissioned and restored to the natural state and 1 we are currently supported for its replacement to be installed.  You can see a summary of facilities yourself on the UH Website.

How can I help PUEO?

Watch our Website Events or twitter for upcoming events and join in! Educate yourself about the facts on the issues for both sides. You can also visit our support page for more about how to help out. And you can contact us if you want to volunteer or just send a letter of support.