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  • Hawaii’s Bold New Approach to Energy Policy

    · By The Civil Beat Editorial Board

    Quietly and without much opposition or fanfare, Hawaii in recent weeks has taken huge, historic steps toward a sustainable energy future characterized by an end to decades of costly reliance on fossil fuels.

    On Monday, Gov. David Ige signed House Bill 623, which provides for Hawaii to move gradually and consistently over the next 30 years to a new reality in which our electric utilities generate all their power from renewable sources — 100 percent.

    Hawaii is the first state to commit to such a goal. And that’s entirely appropriate, given that our state is currently the most dependent on fossil fuels in the country — a dependency that is bleeding us dry.

    This will not only mean dramatically higher uses of solar, wind and geothermal power — already rapidly growing components in our mix of energy sources — but the likely emergence of untapped resources, such as wave and tidal energy, hydrogen power and more. In fact, Ige signed two other bills Monday that would facilitate growth of hydrogen use in Hawaii and create a community based renewable energy program.

    Rep. Chris Lee and Sen. Mike Gabbard fist-bump after Gov. David Ige signs the bill.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    “Hawaii spends roughly $5 billion a year on foreign oil to meet its energy needs,” Ige said in a statement. “Making the transition to renewable, indigenous resources for power generation will allow us to keep more of that money at home, thereby improving our economy, environment and energy

  • Want to Save the Planet? Have Fewer Kids

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Camilo Mora has a simple plan to save the planet: Let’s have fewer children.

    Solve the overpopulation problem, the Earth recovers from nearly two centuries of abuse and climate change is crossed off the list of crises facing the world.

    In the meantime, live your life the way you like and consume what you want, but give the planet a break by doing things to offset your consumptive ways.

    That’s the advice from one of the most straight-talking, easy-to-understand scientists to ever tackle climate change.

    UH Manoa Professor Camilo Mora lectures on overpopulation April 27. Having fewer children will help solve a lot of problems, he believes.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    The 39-year-old professor was giving his last lecture of the school year recently to more than two dozen undergraduates in his Global Environmental Issues class at the University of Hawaii’s Manoa campus.

    The topic was “Targeting the Cause of Biodiversity Loss: Overpopulation.”

    Mora, a biogeography researcher, fears time is running out to cure the underlying causes of sea-level rise, heat waves, severe storms and a litany of other issues that threaten life as it is today due to the effects of human-induced climate change.

    “Wouldn’t it be cool, if scientists were able to look back 100 or 200 years from now and see the turning point happened in Hawaii in 2015?” — Professor Camilo Mora

    But he’s also optimistic and funny. Mostly though, he’s energetic.

    It’s not just being well-caffeinated, although

  • Leadership Transition Finds East-West Center at a Crossroads

    · By The Civil Beat Editorial Board

    The glittering past of the East-West Center brims with the names of significant historical figures.

    The center was originally organized based on a suggestion by then Sen. Lyndon Johnson, established in a bill signed by President Dwight Eisenhower, and housed in facilities designed by legendary architect I.M. Pei, with some spaces donated by Thai royalty and Japanese business leaders.

    The more than 62,000 alumni of its many programs include such notables as former chair of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Rajendra K. Pachauri, the late mother of President Barack Obama — anthropologist Ann Dunham Soetoro — and Malaysian Prime Minister Razak Naji, among many others. It routinely attracts international political figures to its conferences and seminars, among them in recent years then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State John Kerry and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.

    But over the past two years, in particular, the EWC’s fortunes have dimmed.

    Long a beneficiary of the budgetary largesse of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, the center suddenly found itself without its patron when Inouye passed away in 2012. Despite a significant body of academic work and an impressive range of international partners, the center hasn’t been nearly as successful as it needs to be in landing competitive research grants or developing philanthropic support — the most common and significant sources of funding for premier education and research institutions.

    Secretary of State John Kerry at the East-West Center in Honolulu in 2014.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Now comes word

  • Auditor: UH Research Corp. is Failing to Meet Its Mission

    · By Jessica Terrell

    State auditors sharply criticized the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii for “complacency and weak planning” and failing to meet its broader mission to the state, in a report released Tuesday.

    RCUH, a public agency that operates independent of the university, was founded by the Legislature in the 1960s to help the university compete for research grants — in part by making the corporation exempt from a number of state procurement laws.

    Better planning and training is needed for RCUH to meet its mission, a state audit said.

    But according to the report, RCUH was also meant to more broadly serve the people of Hawaii by “proactively” initiating and conducting research and “commercializing inventions and discoveries.”

    Instead, RCUH serves mostly as a support service for the University of Hawaii, despite setting goals for broadening its work in a 2004 strategic plan, the auditor found.

    “RCUH’s passive approach towards initiating and stimulating research and training, coupled with inadequate planning, has resulted in the corporation’s near complete dependence on UH, which is imprudent and contrary to legislative intent,” the report says.

    The organization has yet to act on goals that it set out more than a decade ago, because its board did not have the initiative, training or policies in place to properly make plans, according to the auditor.

    The board is “not equipped to perform its policy-making and oversight roles,” the auditors argue, because the board lacks a formal training program and the informational packet for new board members does not include the 2004 strategic plan.

    Although the board is supposed to meet quarterly, it

  • Ige Supports Construction of TMT, Asks UH to Better Manage Mauna Kea

    · By Anita Hofschneider

    Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced his support for building the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea on Tuesday, saying the project has the right to proceed.

    “I do not doubt that they did more than any previous telescope project to be a good neighbor,” he said during a press conference at the State Capitol.

    Protests against the planned observatory on Mauna Kea, which is considered a sacred mountain by many Native Hawaiians, forced construction to come to a standstill last month after dozens of people were arrested blocking construction vehicles.

    Gov. David Ige speaks at a press conference about the TMT on Mauna Kea.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    The governor also announced a list of 10 requests for the University of Hawaii that are intended to improve the management of the mountain, such as creating a new Mauna Kea Cultural Council to advise the state. Ige acknowledged that in many ways the state has failed to do a good job as steward of the land.

    Still, Kealoha Pisciotta, who has spent a better part of the last two decades fighting development on Mauna Kea, said she was disappointed by the governor’s support for the TMT.

    “The state of Hawaii is defending astronomers from California’s right to build something here on the land that belongs to Native Hawaiians and the public,” she said. “He’s arresting our people, Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian alike, but he’s going to defend the California astronomers’ right to build something here.”

    She called his list of requests for the university “hollow” and

  • UH Regents Should Let Tuition Hike Move Forward

    · By The Civil Beat Editorial Board

    A college diploma has long been the required ticket into America’s middle class. No wonder that, as the price of that ticket continues to climb, so many people are increasingly concerned with keeping it affordable.

    Those concerns are playing out in an interesting way this spring at the University of Hawaii, where system President David Lassner last week proposed lowering this fall’s tuition increase by 2 percent to 3 percent, even though many returning students have already registered for classes at the higher rate.

    His proposal got a chilly response from UH Manoa Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman, who has been struggling to keep body and soul together at the system’s down-at-the-heels main campus.

    The University of Hawaii held its 2015 spring commencement on Saturday. UH President David Lassner wants to reduce a tuition increase for next year’s students.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Already responsible for making $18.6 million in cuts for next budget year, Manoa and Bley-Vroma were projecting a $500,000 deficit at the rate being charged. The tuition reductions would only deepen an already formidable financial hole, without any assurance that they would appreciably increase access at Manoa or the other campuses, where increases would similarly shrink.

    Lassner’s idea, in fact, would reduce tuition revenue by an estimated $16 million. Added to the $28 million that the Legislature recently whacked from the university system’s budget request, the tuition adjustment would leave UH scrambling to cover a $44 million shortfall for the coming fiscal year.

    While well-intended, Lassner’s tuition proposal must be rejected,

  • Peter Apo: The Last Telescope

    · By Peter Apo

    I write this in a state of anguish for I know not how to reach out to the protectors of Mauna Kea, staunch in their beliefs and committed to their uncompromising sense of outrage toward the further incursion into the sanctified spaces of Mauna Kea.

    Now that the Legislature has adjourned I fully expect that the governor will now turn his attention to ramping up engagement of all the major stakeholders in a search for some compromise that, however elusive, will forge a way forward so that both protectors and telescope advocates can emerge with a shared sense of righteousness that allows both to step into the future with their belief systems intact and together embrace the wonderment of the mountain and her majesty as one of the world’s great places.

    My anguish lies in my frustration that I want to argue both sides of the equation.

    Silverswords near the Mauna Kea Visitors Center.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Not an equation that divides science and culture but an equation that, if navigated toward what seems a common ambition, leads both sides toward the same search for God and agreement that this very special mountain is a time portal that can connect us to our universal beginnings and the origins of our humanity.

    And for Hawaii, the remotest group of islands in the world, to be blessed with such a call to greatness and human achievement makes it unthinkable for me to imagine that we will not find a way.

    I cling to

  • Ian Lind: The Legal Challenge to the Thirty Meter Telescope

    · By Ian Lind

    I admit it. I grew up reading “vintage” science fiction, including Ray Bradbury’s lyric stories that captured the wonder of the night sky and the curiosity inspired by the enormity of the universe and the meaning of our tiny place in it, along with the works of writers like Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov, who both wrote fiction grounded in a background of hard science.

    So I’ve been excited, from a distance, at the expansion of astronomy-related research and education here in Hawaii.  As a result, the emergence of the broad-based protest movement against the latest and largest of the observatories on Mauna Kea, the Thirty Meter Telescope, has been so painful for me to watch.

    I’m guessing there are many people who, like me, see this as an unfortunate clash between two positive sets of values, the urge to preserve and protect our natural and cultural resources, and the urge to understand and investigate the nature of the universe around us.  I’m not persuaded by appeals to the “sacred,” at least I don’t think they trump all the other considerations involved in this complex situation.

    The resolution to this clash of values, and the ultimate fate of the TMT, may be decided in the short term by the outcome of the pending lawsuit brought by some project opponents, which is now on appeal to the state’s Intermediate Court of Appeals, and a somewhat parallel case before the Hawaii Supreme Court. And so I decided to take

  • UH Regents to Hold Mauna Kea Meeting in Hilo on Sunday

    · By Jessica Terrell

    So many people showed up to comment on the Thirty Meter Telescope at Thursday’s University of Hawaii Board of Regents meeting in Hilo that the board is scheduling a second meeting in Hilo on Sunday to finish public comments.

    Roughly 120 people signed up to address the board last week, UH Spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said. Because of time constraints, only half the people were able to speak.

    At the upcoming meeting, the Office of Mauna Kea Management and university staff are also expected to give presentations on the history of the project and UH’s management of the site.

    Only one of the 15 current regents, Chuck Y. Gee, was a member of the board in 2010 when UH approved the project.

    Hula Halau dance in support of stopping the TMT construction.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    At the meeting in 2010 where the board gave its collective thumbs up to TMT, most speakers were in favor of the project. At the time, the board office had received 30 written testimonies of support for TMT and nine against.

    The vast majority of speakers at last week’s meeting in Hilo opposed TMT construction.

    The Board of Regents is not scheduled to take any action on the matter Sunday. What, if any, action the board might be considering five years after approving the project is unclear.

    Board Chairman Randy Moore was traveling and could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

    Update: There isn’t much the board can do about existing telescope agreements, Moore said Wednesday.

    “The agreements that are in place are in place, as I think the governor has said on

  • Mauna Kea Telescopes: The Business of Astronomy Is Not an Easy One

    · By Jessica Terrell

    The first telescope built atop Mauna Kea was tiny by today’s standards, an 88-inch instrument that astronomers hoped would reveal new details about the universe, and draw the world’s best researchers to a mountain relatively unknown in the scientific community.

    More than half a century after site testing began, that University of Hawaii telescope is still used — along with a dozen others that have transformed Mauna Kea into one of the most famous sites for astronomical observation on Earth.

    Countries from around the world pour millions of dollars each year into supporting research there, taking advantage of the location’s unique combination of high altitude, dark skies and stable atmosphere.

    Yet even as crews get ready to begin work on the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope — still on hold Monday as state officials and the telescope builder try to work a compromise with Native Hawaiian protestors who have brought construction to a halt — other observatories on the mountain struggle to maintain funding and remain fully operational.

    An artist’s concept of the Thirty Meter Telescope observatory on Mauna Kea at lower left, with existing observatories in the background.

    Courtesy TMT International Observatory

    No telescope operators are getting rich off Mauna Kea, and that figures to remain the case even with TMT.

    One telescope is broken. Another is slated for decommissioning starting next year. A third may soon be operated by a for-profit corporation.

    And while the scientific value of the telescopes continues to surpass anything imaginable in the 1960s, opponents of the telescopes question if

  • Culture Cave: Gaye Chan’s GalleryHNL Wants To Let The Secret Out

    · By James Cave

    If you count the active artists in Honolulu’s art community, most of them have been affiliated in some way with the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

    As the department chair, Gaye Chan has seen most of them go through the school’s halls and then the motions afterward: they’ll make a lot of art at school, graduate, and maybe get into a few shows locally, but no shows will pay.

    To get money, some will grab a job at the Honolulu Museum of Art, either in the cafés, or installing art, or teaching at the art school for a few semesters, while others eventually settle for a job as a bank teller, or barista, or whatever pays them a living wage while taking their time away from producing art.

    GalleryHNL, a new gallery that represents local artists, opens its inaugural show at the Pacific Gentry Design Center on May 2.

    GalleryHNL

    “Artists need to be able to sustain their life, if we continue to be artists,” Chan said. “So many give it up because we make stuff and don’t sell it.”

    That’s why she’s teamed up with a trio of philanthropists to form a new gallery to financially support this student body and its alumni: GalleryHNL.

    Getting the Secret Out

    Yes: the art department often promotes its students in dependably intellectual shows throughout the year at its main gallery (the BFA exhibition, called “Unabridged,” opens on Sunday, April 26, and you should go). But Chan says that they get little attention from institutions and collectors.

    “People based here who support art are all hooked up with the (Honolulu Museum

  • As Mauna Kea Protests Grow, Some Hawaii Island Residents Worry About Jobs

    · By Anita Hofschneider

    Kathy DeMello, 59, remembers when the first telescope was built on Mauna Kea.

    It was 1968, and her father was one of the construction workers. “It was exciting,” said DeMello, a third-generation Portuguese immigrant to the Big Island of Hawaii.

    On Saturday, DeMello sat at a market in Hilo selling handmade jewelry and chatting with neighbors and friends. Like many in the community, she doesn’t understand the staunch opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope that’s erupted over the last few weeks.

    “This is education. It’s jobs,” she said.

    That means a lot to DeMello: Most of her family has moved away because the Big Island’s tight economy means that there aren’t many jobs available.

    Kathy DeMello sells jewelry at a market in Hilo.

    Her daughter is in North Carolina, her brother is in Georgia and her sister is in Virginia. Only one of her sisters still lives on the Big Island. Although her family misses home, there’s little they can do about it other than buy expensive tickets to visit occasionally.

    That’s why DeMello is glad that the astronomy industry is growing in Hilo, a small town on the east side of Hawaii’s biggest island.

    “To me, if it’s done right, there is no disrespect,” DeMello said of the construction of the new telescope. “Only goodness.”

    “You get national news, you get five minutes of fame, you get arrested — what does that accomplish?” — Arlene Hussey, Big Island resident

    But many other Big Island residents believe that the telescope isn’t being “done right,” or shouldn’t be built at

  • Mauna Kea Is a Special Place in Humanity’s Quest for Knowledge

    · By Scott Robertson

    A large demonstration was recently held at the University of Hawaii at Manoa to protest the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea. Protestors lined Dole Street all the way from the School for Hawaiian Knowledge to the Founder’s Gate. Drivers honked their horns in solidarity. A lot of people were happy, but as a professor at the university, my heart was broken by this anti-science, anti-knowledge protest in the middle of campus.

    Of course, this movement is not limited to the university campus. To my surprise and dismay, I find that many of my friends in Hawaii oppose the TMT. My social media environment is flooded with protest against the telescope. Influential high school and middle school teachers that I know are encouraging their students and their colleagues to oppose it. Protests are being held on the mountain itself. The governor has suspended construction for more review. Frankly, I am stunned and discouraged.

    A visitor takes a photograph of the various telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Some of my friends have warned me off of engaging in this debate. I am not Hawaiian, after all. I have not really been kamaaina for all that long (eight years), so I should stay out of it, right?

    Sorry, but I respectfully disagree. There is a parallel debate in the scientific community about how much scientists should become involved in policy issues. We have traditionally stayed out of such things, but every

  • UH Student Protests Against TMT Continue

    · By Jessica Terrell

    Social media postings about Mauna Kea may be trending on Twitter, but the protest movement against the Thirty Meter Telescope is anything but a fad, student protesters said during a rally at UH Manoa on Monday.

    More than 200 students and faculty members attended the early afternoon rally outside the University of Hawaii’s Campus Center. The event was the second protest held on campus in the past four days, and followed a student walkout at noon called for by Pukoa,  a Native Hawaiian advisory council with representatives from all 10 UH system campuses.

    It was unclear how many students participated in the walkout, and most of the campus appeared to be operating as normal.

     

    Kaleo O Hawaii Advertising representative Ashley Maria hands out a newspaper to students during the rally.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Speakers at the event said they were frustrated by being portrayed as being anti-science or “bandwagon jumpers” who are protesting because it’s popular. Native Hawaiians have been voicing opposition to the telescopes for more than four decades, UH Manoa alumna and KAHEA staff member Shelley Muneoka told rally attendees.

    “I got really upset with a friend on Facebook who called the Mauna Kea protest the new ice bucket challenge,” Muneoka said, referencing a popular social media campaign aimed at raising awareness about Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

    Supporters of the telescope expect the protests to “stop being sexy” and for people to lose interest, Muneoka added. “That’s not going to happen.”

    Dozens of students stood in line to have T-shirts silkscreened with protest messages and artwork, and took

  • Hawaii Governor Calls ‘Timeout’ on Mauna Kea Telescope Construction

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea is on hold for at least a week as protests over the $1.4 billion project continue to mount.

    Hawaii Gov. David Ige told reporters Tuesday that there will be a “timeout” to facilitate a dialogue.

    “It’s a significant project and this will give us some time to engage in further conversations with the various stakeholders that have an interest in Mauna Kea and its sacredness and its importance in scientific research and discovery going forward,” he said.

    An artist’s depiction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea as seen from above.

    Courtesy TMT International Observatory

    The summit of the dormant Big Island volcano has become the site of protests — and 31 arrests last week — as Native Hawaiian and environmental groups fight to protect the location, already home to 13 telescopes. The 18-story-tall TMT would be the biggest yet and nine times more powerful.

    “I am not quite sure our people have seen a movement like this in their lifetime and I think it’s a testament to the fact that our people have been ignited and are ready to move forward and resolidify ourselves throughout the world as a people and a country,” Kahoʻokahi Kanuha, one of the protesters who was arrested last Thursday, said in a news release Tuesday.

    Peter Apo, a trustee of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, pointed at the history of telescopes atop Mauna Kea in a column Thursday for Civil Beat.

    He explained that in 1968 the Department of Land