On August 8, one of the deadliest wildfires in the 21st century broke out on the island of Maui, Hawai?i. Aerial photos show the effects of the devastation, with the historic city of Lahaina going from a thriving, lush greenscape to a burnt husk of destroyed buildings and wildlife. The fires still rage as of August 22 and have taken 115 lives, with around 1,000 unaccounted for, as of that date.
According to Kaniela Ing, former Hawaiian legislator and the director of the Green New Deal Network, the wildfires are “a tragic symbol of the climate emergency and colonial greed.” Lahaina, which experienced much of the worst devastation, was once the seat of the independent Hawaiian government kingdom years before it was toppled and annexed by the United States in the 1890s. Some of the most precious historic sites of an independent Hawai?i were destroyed in the fires.
Ing claims that “the gross mismanagement of land by greedy developers and land speculators destroyed our natural landscape and buffers and enabled the rapid spread of the fire.”
The Maui Emergency Management Agency estimates that it will cost over $5.5 billion to rebuild from the damage. With numerous residential buildings destroyed, there are now thousands of displaced people in Maui.
Even before the fires, Native Hawaiians were struggling to stay in their homes, with a booming tourism industry driving up prices. The cost of living in Hawai?i is almost twice the U.S. average (though it is key to note that Hawaiian independence activists protest the island chain’s default inclusion as a part of the United States). The median price of a single-family home in Maui is $1.2 million, and the median condo price is $850,000. The racial groups with the highest poverty rates are Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.