As I watched the flames of the wildfires eat my beloved Maui, it felt as if the very pages from the Guide of Revelations have been coming alive.
Properties, sacred buildings, and establishments flattened. Over 100 lives have been misplaced, with a thousand extra unaccounted for. Even the traditional 150-year-old Banyan tree, a guardian of my youth, was marred by the inferno. Every ember appeared to inform a story, a reminiscence, a bit of a story that related numerous generations.
The harrowing wildfires paired with a fierce hurricane wasn’t only a tragedy. It felt like Goddess Papahānaumoku—Earth Mom, herself—raging at humanity’s hubris. The disturbing silence left by the lacking and the mourned souls tells of a catastrophe that is unnatural, formed by the human hand—a byproduct of the harmful dance between local weather change and centuries of colonial greed.
Whereas West Maui is not any stranger to wildfires, the magnitude of the blaze that tore by Lāhainā is emblematic of a altering local weather. Our once-wetland haven has been transformed right into a weak tinderbox. Compounding the issue was Hurricane Dora—made fiercer by the warming local weather—which propelled the hearth additional. All of this underscores a painful fact: the primary and most severely impacted by the local weather disaster are sometimes indigenous, Black, brown, and low-income communities. These teams have contributed the least to local weather change, however have suffered essentially the most, and should be prioritized in our transition to a greater world.
We will not ignore the scars of historical past which set the stage for this catastrophe. Earlier than the lodges, earlier than Hawaii was referred to as a state or perhaps a territory (and method earlier than its unlawful annexation), Lāhainā was the cradle of our civilization. It was the guts and capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom. The waters have been so ample that boats as soon as surrounded the enduring Waiola Church. Kamehameha The Nice’s palace stood tall on the city’s middle, maintaining watch over the shoreline.
Learn Extra: The History Lost in the Maui Wildfires
However on the flip of the twentieth century, American sugar barons got here to exploit Hawaii’s rich resources. They disrupted Lahaina’s water provide and introduced extremely flammable grasses to Hawaii—the very ones that ignited with ferocity final week. Their heirs went on to monopolize land, marginalizing our indigenous inhabitants within the course of.
Their legacy and extractive lifestyle endures. Maui’s most dominant companies in the present day, like Alexander & Baldwin, embody the legacy of those self same barons who as soon as sought to revenue from our fertile lands. Their ethos of extraction and destruction persists in Maui’s most dominant industries: land hypothesis and tourism. These industries search to destroy a lot of Hawaii’s pure magnificence whereas gatekeeping sections of it for the privileged few.
This timeline of Hawaiian historical past might be skilled first hand by a stroll down Lāhinā’s Entrance Road simply two weeks in the past. You possibly can see milestones of our historical past represented on the street’s eating places, shops, and historic buildings: from royalty, to whaling, sugar, tourism, and luxurious. At the moment, a lot of Entrance Road is burned to the bottom. It’s a potent and harrowing reminder of the terminal level of the exploitative trajectory Hawaii has been on for many years.
My best worry is that this trajectory of exploitation will proceed within the restoration from the Maui wildfires. As whispers of reshaping Lāhainā emerge, with rich builders desirous to mildew it to their imaginative and prescient, our era’s imaginative and prescient for social and environmental justice grows even firmer. Our restoration from the wildfires can’t simply be about combating local weather change—it needs to be about returning management of our cherished lands to the individuals who maintain them expensive.
Learn Extra: How to Help Those Affected by the Maui Wildfires
The way forward for Maui must be greater than only a haven for vacationers. Our land ought to cater to native wants over exterior needs. As a substitute of huge monocrops, we should always diversify, nurturing fields that feed our personal folks. Our method to housing should be rooted in necessity: We have to construct properties to truly shelter our folks, to not line the pockets of distant buyers. With the Division of Hawaiian Properties totally funded for the primary time and the Hawaii Land Belief desirous to help, the second is ripe to offer our many unsheltered Kānaka Maoli with properties that dignify their heritage.
The folks of Maui, particularly survivors, are taking cost of the restoration course of, reshaping the blueprint for our island’s restoration. We’re picturing a community-driven, simply restoration that not solely reconstructs Maui but in addition fosters new management amongst Maui residents—from collaboratively rebuilding a college sooner or later to advocating on the county council the following. As we rise from the ashes, our rebuilding efforts should champion hoʻomana Lāhui—the spirit of collective empowerment.
On the nationwide degree, it is previous time for President Biden to formally acknowledge the local weather disaster by declaring a local weather emergency. This could allow him to halt the harmful fossil gas manufacturing driving these disasters. Moreover, substantial federal investments on the dimensions of trillions are required to stop catastrophes like this one sooner or later and prioritize the welfare of working households in mitigation and restoration efforts.
Any local weather answer could be incomplete with out justice at its core. Kānaka Maoli, Native Hawaiians, must be central to the rebuilding and restoration efforts. We should always have the authority to handle our lands and sources.
In these heartrending occasions, it is difficult to see past the fast ache. However there’s a silver lining in our resilience. The wildfires of Maui, whereas devastating, have additionally ignited a spark in us. They’ve woke up a renewed dedication to not simply rebuild, however to redefine what Hawaii stands for. That is our dwelling, our historical past, our legacy. And it is our collective accountability to make sure that Hawaii’s future is carved out of respect, understanding, and love for its previous.
Identical to the Banyan tree, Lāhainā might have confronted devastation, however its roots are deep and resilient. Because the Banyan regrows its branches—and recolors itselves with budding leaves—so too, will Lāhainā flourish once more.
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