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33 Native Hawaiians Arrested Protecting Sacred Mountain From Giant Telescope

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33 Native Hawaiians Arrested Protecting Sacred Mountain From Giant Telescope
The summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii, which is considered sacred by some Native Hawaiians. Charmian Vistaunet / Design Pics / Getty Images

A decade-long fight over the proposed construction of a giant telescope on a mountain considered sacred by some Native Hawaiians came to a head Wednesday when 33 elders were arrested for blocking the road to the summit, HuffPost Reported.


The most recent protests kicked off Monday, when construction on the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) was set to begin on Mauna Kea on Hawaii's Big Island. Astronomers say the mountain is one of the best places in the world to get a clear view in an attempt to understand the origins of the universe. But some Native Hawaiians revere the mountain as sacred. It is both a place where important ancestors are buried, and a place believed to be an entrance point to heaven, CNN explained.

"We're losing all of the things that we're responsible for as Hawaiians," activist Walter Ritte, who was one of eight to chain himself to a grate on the access road Monday, told Hawaii News Now. "We're responsible for our oceans. We're responsible for our land. We're responsible for our future generations," he said. "We must win this battle," he added.

Ritte was one of the 33 arrested between around 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Wednesday morning, Hawaii News Now reported. Most of them were kupuna, or elders.

"We're kupuna fighting for our families," Ranette Robinson, another of the arrested activists, said.

Hours after the arrests, Hawaii Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation to give authorities more "flexibility" to stop protesters from blocking construction.

"We are certainly committed to ensuring the project has access to the construction site," Ige said, as ABC News reported. "We've been patient in trying to allow the protesters to express their feelings about the project."

Hawaii News Now estimated that 1,000 people were present at the demonstrations, while ABC News reported those numbers swelled to 2,000 after Wednesday's arrests.

Plans for the TMT were first announced 10 years ago, according to Hawaii News Now, and opponents have tried both direct and legal means of blocking it since then. HuffPost gave a brief run-down of some of them:

Protesters, who call themselves "protectors" of the mountain, disrupted a groundbreaking back in 2014. And police arrested more than 30 opponents the following year after they attempted to stop construction. Later that year, the Hawaii Supreme Court invalidated a construction permit, finding that the state Board of Land and Natural Resources violated due process when it approved the permit in 2011. Those behind the project were forced to apply for a new one.

Last year, the Hawaii Supreme Court declared the project's latest permit legal, according to ABC News. Opponents are, however, still fighting in court as well. Last week they filed a suit arguing that the telescope's builders must post a security bond equal in cost to construction before starting their work.

Not all Native Hawaiians oppose the project, however. Annette Reyes, who lives on the Big Island, said most important cultural traditions were not practiced on the summit.

"It's going to be out of sight, out of mind," she said, as ABC News reported.

The 13 observatories already located on the mountain have put work on hold during the protests.

"The safety of everyone on the mountain, (observatory staff), law enforcement and protesters is of paramount importance to us," East Asian Observatory Deputy Director Jessica Dempsey said in a statement to CNN.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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