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A Spanish judge in a decision cheered by environmentalists has put a halt to backup plans for the construction of a giant telescope in the Canary Islands — eliminating at least for now the primary alternative location to the preferred spot in Hawaii, where there have been protests against the telescope.
Construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, or TMT, on Hawaii's tallest mountain, Mauna Kea, has been stalled by opponents who say the project will desecrate land held sacred to some Native Hawaiians. Telescope officials had selected the alternate location near an existing scientific research facility on the highest mountain of La Palma, one of the Spanish islands off the western African coast, in the Atlantic Ocean.
But an administrative court in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the capital of the Spanish archipelago, ruled last month that the 2017 concession by local authorities of public land for the tentative project was invalid. The ruling was dated on July 29, but only became public this week after local media reported about the decision.
Protestors at the site of the telescope Image source: voavoa
In the ruling obtained by The Associated Press, Judge Roi López Encinas wrote that the telescope land allocation was subject to an agreement between the Canary Astrophysics Institute, or IAC, and the telescope's promoter, the TMT International Observatory (TIO) consortium.
But the judge ruled that the agreement was not valid because TIO had not expressed an intention to build on the La Palma site instead of at the Hawaii site. The judge also sided with the plaintiff, the environmental group Ben Magec-Ecologistas en Acción, in rejecting arguments by TIO's legal team and the island's government that the land concession was covered by an international treaty on scientific research.
An official for the Canary Islands High Court said questions about the ruling could not be answered because other court officials in a position to answer the questions were on vacation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to be named in media reports.
The island's local elected government chief, Mariano Zapata, said it was "sad" that advocacy groups "are so occupied by administrative matters instead of environmental issues."
"I wish we were all in the same boat with the intent of creating jobs in the La Palma island so it can keep being an international reference on scientific research," Zapata said. His government estimated last year that the telescope would generate 500 permanent jobs and at least 400 million euros ($470 million) in investment.
Site for the telescope Image source: voavoa
Scott Ishikawa, a spokesperson for the consortium hoping to build the telescope, said that the consortium plans to appeal the ruling.
"While we respect the court's ruling in La Palma, we will pursue the legal process to retain La Palma as our alternative site. Hawaii remains our preferred location for TMT, and we have renewed our efforts to better connect with the Hawaii community in a meaningful and appropriate way," he said in an email to The Associated Press.
Pablo Batista, a spokesman of the Ben Magec-Ecologistas en Acción group, hailed the decision as a big setback for what he called a "fraudulent" project that he said made "fake promises" of new jobs for the island. "The whole idea of offering the island as a back-up was nothing else but as a strategy to put pressure on the Hawaii plans," Batista said.
In a statement, the group also said that "the five years that the TIO consortium has lost on La Palma should make it reflect on the arrogant and disrespectful strategy that they have carried out both in Hawaii and in the Canary Islands, emboldened by institutional support and despising the arguments of the opposition to the TMT." The group's concerns echo some of the concerns expressed by those fighting the telescope in Hawaii, said Kealoha Pisciotta, one of the leaders seeking to keep the project off Mauna Kea. "I'm glad that they challenged it, because like here, the challenge helps bring awareness to TMT's not only lack of following the process, but caring for the environment and Hawaiians' sacred site," she said. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Hawaii,La Palma, Telescope, Science, Spain, Environment, archipelago
HONOLULU, HAWAII - Hawaii had a thriving native-language press through the 19th and early 20th centuries, and the language and culture are being revived through a digitizing project at Honolulu's Bishop Museum and an effort to reach modern readers through an online news site.
Since April, Honolulu Civil Beat has been printing a weekly Hawaiian-language section of one or two articles aimed at those who know or are studying the language.
Across town at the Bishop Museum, more than 100 newspapers from a once-thriving Hawaiian language press are being digitized, preserving publications from the 1830s to 1940s.
The museum's collection includes Ka Lama Hawaii, the first newspaper established in Maui in 1834, and the project provides a window on local and world events spanning more than 100 years.
Hawaiian has few remaining native speakers, notes a Honolulu Civil Beat reporter who is a native Hawaiian and has learned the language through studying it in school.
"There are really no words to this feeling of my story being translated into a language for my people that my people are trying to bring back," reporter Ku'u Kauanoe, one of four staff members working on the project, said.
The Hawaiian Islands were unified by King Kamehameha I in 1810 after years of conflict among regional leaders.
The unified nation developed high literacy rates after American missionaries created a written language in the 1820s.
Their descendants, however, overthrew Hawaii's Queen Liliuokalani in 1893, suppressing the language in schools even before Hawaii was annexed as a U.S. territory in 1898. By 1959, when Hawaii became the 50th U.S. state, the Hawaiian language had nearly died out.
In 1993, a century after the overthrow, the U.S. Congress apologized and President Bill Clinton signed the resolution into law.
Hawaiian was revived in the 1970s, becoming the state's second official language, along with English. In the 1980s, immersion schools emerged for students who wanted to improve their fluency.
Hawaii's population is ethnically mixed. In the 19th century, sugar plantations drew workers from Japan, China, the Philippines, Korea and Portugal, and other immigrants have arrived since then, including from other Pacific islands.
"I am Chamorro, which is the Indigenous people of the Mariana Islands," said Civil Beat reporter Anita Hofschneider. Her stories have chronicled the sovereignty movement, which seeks greater self-determination for Hawaiians, and looked at tensions surrounding the Indigenous language.
"I'm very familiar with the history of Indigenous languages being erased and the challenges of bringing them back and helping them flourish," Hofschneider said.
Native speakers of Hawaiian number in the thousands out of a population of 1.4 million in the state, but renewed teaching means that many more now can speak it at a basic level.
Language is tied to land and heritage, said Manuwai Peters, a teacher of Hawaiian who is a reader of the new section of the news site. "The Hawaiian language is almost like the DNA code that has in it our systems of knowledge, our belief system, our history," he said.
Civil Beat operations manager Aja Paet said the language embodies values seen throughout the Pacific islands, "the idea of working with the land and working with the resources you have available."
Honolulu Civil Beat was started in 2010 with funding from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pam, to cover stories not covered by local media. Today, it's a nonprofit organization that receives donations from readers, foundations and businesses, with Omidyar as publisher, and has become an important news source on the islands.
Some of the stories translated into Hawaiian are on topics of general interest, such as electric vehicles, while some are of special interest to Native Hawaiians, including one on a land dispute with the federal government.
Stories are written in English, then translated with help from experts at the University of Hawaii. Reporters hope to see the project expand.
"That's kind of the dream," said deputy editor Nathan Eagle. "Let's get content coming to us in Hawaiian and then go translate it back." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Hawaii Language, Newspapers, Press, Revival
By Mike O'Sullivan
HONOLULU, HAWAII - Hawaii faces a range of environmental problems caused by global warming, impacts worsened by practices that critics say have ignored the local ecology.
They say reviving traditional values can reduce the damage by limiting coastal erosion, reversing the rising acidity of coastal waters and lessening flooding from intense storms.
Coastal hotels and homes already are seeing the effect of rising sea levels, which could cost the state's principal island of Oahu 40% of its beaches by 2050, according to one study. That also would harm tourism, which is the largest source of income for the islands.
Even under an optimistic global scenario assuming lower greenhouse gas emissions, sea levels will rise 30 centimeters by the end of the century, according to current estimates. Under a worst-case scenario, ocean levels could rise more than 2 meters by 2100, devastating coastal regions and displacing whole communities on these islands.
The 2015 Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial levels.
Both air and ocean temperatures are rising, and acidity is increasing as oceans absorb more carbon dioxide, damaging coral reefs and sea life.
Changes in weather patterns cause erratic precipitation, and in some places, drought.
"Some rainfall is on average going up over time. Some is going down," said Victoria Keener, who studies climate change and natural resource management at Honolulu's East-West Center. "In Hawaii, we've actually seen drying out," with increased fire risk in parts of the islands and more rapid warming and environmental changes at higher elevations, she said.
Unstable weather triggered severe storms and flooding on Maui and other islands in March, destroying homes and bridges and providing a preview, scientists said, of what can happen in the future.
Moreover, climate change has additional consequences, Keener said, contaminating "groundwater wells near the coast," harming agriculture and threatening infrastructure.
Honolulu is a modern urban center, and the island of Oahu, where the city is located, is home to some 950,000 people. As the population has grown, authorities have paved over natural waterways to control flooding, blocking the natural watersheds that once linked the mountains, lowlands and coast in a single ecosystem.
Reviving traditional farming
Celeste Connors of Hawaii Green Growth, a nonprofit organization that works to implement the United Nations sustainable development goals, stands on the edge of the watershed above the Manoa Valley, which drains rainfall from the mountains toward the coast. Nearby is a restored heiau, an ancient religious and ceremonial site located on the grounds of the Manoa Heritage Center.
Connor said this was the center of a natural system that linked these hills to the farming lowlands and coastal Waikiki.
It is called an ahupua'a, which refers both to the land unit and the system of managing resources from "ridge to reef," said Connors, all driven by an ethic of stewardship that Hawaiians call mālama.
There are efforts around the islands to renew traditional farming methods and values. On the east or windward shore of Oahu, farmer Nick Reppun works for a nonprofit group that grows traditional staple foods such as breadfruit and taro, restoring these lowland wetlands to their natural state.
Farming in Hawaii wikimedia
The farm borders a housing development in an area once slated for luxury homes, a marina and golf course before a public agency intervened in 1991. Today, conservation and heritage groups are restoring the mountain watershed and coastal aquaculture pond, reviving another ancient, interconnected ahupua'a.
"We're just trying to do what we know has been done and what we know worked before," said Reppun, farm director at the project called Kāko'o 'Ōiwi. "We're not reinventing the wheel with these systems, just trying to revive them," he said.Today, these islands are far from self-sufficient, importing 85% to 90% of their food from outside — something long seen as a vulnerability. Researcher Hunter Heaivilin of the University of Hawaii noted that there were efforts in World War I to secure the food supply and boost the local production of taro.
In 1949, the islands suffered a 177-day shipping strike, and a 100-day West Coast dock strike slashed imports in 1971, causing shortages and again highlighting the problem.
Heaivilin said today, bottom-up efforts to increase self-sufficiency include food hubs that connect small farms and buyers.
Islands ideal for research
There are no easy solutions to the problems of climate change, but experts say islands are ground zero for studying climate change and are a repository of knowledge about community resilience.
The local Aloha+ Challenge tracks progress toward the U.N. sustainable development goals, measuring successes and shortcomings in areas from clean energy to food production. Connors of Hawaii Green Growth said the challenge, which takes its name from the traditional Hawaiian greeting, suggests a way of life rooted in these islands.
Alapaki Luke, a teacher of Hawaiian language and culture at Honolulu Community College, points to a wetland taro patch that traps the silt that would otherwise flow downstream to the ocean. Located on the grounds of the School of Hawaiian Knowledge at the University of Hawaii, he said it showcases traditional wisdom about land and water use and ways to prevent erosion.
"I'm not about going back 400 or 500 years," he said. "But we can use the foundation, which we call the kahua, of the 'ike, the native tradition, in a modern setting," using ancient knowledge that he said is state of the art. (VOA/RN)
Travel and economic slowdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic have combined to put the brakes on shipping, seafloor exploration, and many other human activities in the ocean, creating a unique moment to begin a time-series study of the impacts of sound on marine life.
A community of scientists has identified more than 200 non-military ocean hydrophones worldwide and hopes to make the most of the unprecedented opportunity to pool their recorded data into the 2020 quiet ocean assessment and to help monitor the ocean soundscape long into the future.
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They aim for a total of 500 hydrophones capturing the signals of whales and other marine life while assessing the racket levels of human activity.
Combined with other sea life monitoring tools and methods such as animal tagging, the work will help reveal the extent to which noise in “the Anthropocene seas” impacts ocean species.
Sound travels far in the ocean, and a hydrophone can pick up low-frequency signals from hundreds, even thousands of kilometers away. The highest concentrations of non-military hydrophones are along the North American coasts — Atlantic, Pacific, and the Arctic — Hawaii, Europe, and Antarctica, with some scattered through the Asia-Pacific region.
For over a century, navies have used sound to reveal submarines and underwater mines and for other national security purposes. Marine animals likewise use sound and natural sonar to navigate and communicate across the ocean.
But the effects of human-generated ocean sounds on marine life remain poorly understood.
“Measuring variability and change in ambient, or background, ocean sound over time forms the basis for characterizing marine soundscapes,” says collaborator Peter L. Tyack, Professor of Marine Mammal Biology at the University of St Andrews, Scotland.
“Assessing the risks of underwater sound for marine life requires understanding what sound levels cause harmful effects and wherein the ocean vulnerable animals may be exposed to sound exceeding these levels. Sparse, sporadic deployment of hydrophones and obstacles to integrating the measurements that are made have narrowly limited what we confidently know.”
In 2011, concerned experts began developing the International Quiet Ocean Experiment (IQOE), launched in 2015 with the International Quiet Ocean Experiment Science Plan. Among their goals: create a time series of measurements of ambient sound in many ocean locations to reveal variability and changes in intensity and other properties of sound at a range of frequencies.
The plan also included designating 2022 “the Year of the Quiet Ocean”.
Due to Covid-19, however, “the oceans are unlikely to be as quiet as during April 2020 for many decades to come,” says project originator Jesse Ausubel, Director of the Program for the Human Environment at The Rockefeller University.
“The Covid-19 pandemic provided an unanticipated event that reduced sound levels more than we dreamed possible based on voluntary sound reductions. IQOE will consider 2020 the Year of the Quiet Ocean and is focusing project resources to encourage the study of changes in sound levels and effects on organisms that occurred in 2020, based on observations from hundreds of hydrophones deployed by the worldwide ocean acoustics community in 2019-2021.”
With IQOE encouragement, the number of civilian hydrophones operating in North America, Europe, and elsewhere for research and operational purposes has increased dramatically. With these, IQOE and the ocean sound research community can shed needed light on humans’ influences on marine life and ecosystems.
The existing hydrophone network covers shallow coastal and shelf areas most influenced by local changes in human activity. It also includes deep stations that can measure the effects of low-frequency sound sources over large open ocean areas. (IANS/KB)