In other ways, Hawaii's environmental, cultural and astronomy communities may be at odds, but there is agreement on the issue of light pollution.
Senate Bill 536, among hundreds on Gov. Linda Lingle's desk, comes down squarely in support of astronomy in Hawaii while finding a need to limit light pollution to protect culture, wildlife and habitats.
Since the bill was supported by the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, Lingle is expected to approve the bill to have the DBEDT establish standards for "starlight reserves," to include a state lighting law that limits outdoor lights.
It's not a new issue.
Hawaii County established lighting standards 20 years ago designed to prevent night lights from urban centers intruding on the viewing conditions for observatories on Mauna Kea.
Kauai County is installing light shields on its streetlights to block extraneous light, to limit
the effects of the lights on seabirds flying at night.
Maui County two years ago imposed new lighting standards, including requirements for shielding and lower-intensity light fixtures - although giving existing users 10 years to convert from more-intense night lights.
But it is not just the street and outdoor lights of Kahului and Kihei affecting the night sky over Maui. A glow from the mass of outdoor lights on Oahu also affects the night sky over Haleakala, reflecting off high clouds or just permeating the air above the islands with photons.
University of Hawaii at Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw and astronomer Richard Wainscoat advised the Legislature that light can affect viewing conditions in the night sky 200 miles from Honolulu to Mauna Kea with "sky glow."
"Air molecules and dust scatter artificial light into the telescopes," Wainscoat's testimony said. "Every 10 percent brighter that artificial light makes the sky from its natural value makes the effective size of a telescope 10 percent smaller."
Amateur astronomers and scientists from Maui were joined by the Sierra Club and a turtle recovery specialist with the Hawaii Wildlife Fund in urging approval of SB 536.
There was also an argument that excessive lighting wasted energy, although that was a lesser issue in the discussions. The effects of light pollution on Hawaii's ability to promote science was a key issue, with the factors of cultural and natural resources adding to the benefit of a state-imposed starlight reserve proposed by SB 536.
"We believe this reserve would both protect and promote cultural heritages associated with the night sky, help safeguard the equilibrium of the biosphere in which nocturnal and diurnal habitats are threatened by light pollution and significantly enhance the quality of our night skies for astronomical observation and research," DBEDT Director Ted Liu offered in testimony.
The Office of Hawaii Affairs joined in the discussion, asking to have a representative on an advisory committee to formulate a starlight reserve, noting that the night sky is important to Hawaiian culture for identifying the stars used in navigation and the knowledge of the sky calendar that dictates times for planting, fishing and harvesting.
"Light pollution, particularly in heavily developed areas, has limited the ability of Native Hawaiians to learn about the night sky and use it as their ancestors once did," OHA said.
The bill sidesteps the divergence between those focused on environmental and cultural concerns and those focused on scientific values. It seeks to designate natural areas "cultur-al heritage" sites and "astronomy" sites warranting protection from light pollution but makes no mention of conflicts arising over observatories in natural areas with high cultural value.
OHA and the environmental community wish to revert to the natural conditions of the night sky, under which ancestral cultural knowledge can be retained and the habitat of endemic and indigenous species can be preserved.
For the astronomers, restoration of a dark sky is essential to studies that define the nature of physical reality. But their work requires structures that intrude on the clear skies of high-altitude sites found in few places on Earth.
Still, the mutual goal of a dark sky suggests the dichotomy is two sides of the same purpose, access to starlight as a source of knowledge. It is unfortunate that some believe cultural knowledge and scientific knowledge are mutually exclusive.
* Edwin Tanji is a former city editor of The Maui News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. "Haku Mo'olelo," "writing stories," is about stories that are being written or have been written. It appears every Friday.