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Green New Deal Director Speaks: Climate Deniers Are the Arsonists!

Hawaii is On Fire and the Climate Change Deniers Are to Blame! This Is The New Normal!

The Declining rainfall, rising temperatures and invasive species have left the islands more susceptible to wildfires. The fires in Hawaii would be shocking anywhere — killing at least 40 people, in one of the deadliest wildfires in the United States in modern history. Hotter temperatures evaporate more moisture from soil and vegetation, drying out trees, shrubs and grasses and turning leaf litter and fallen branches into kindling. Through military bases, large corporate industry, tourism, and religion, the Big 5 oligarch colonial powers have essentially wiped out most of the Hawaiian culture, stolen their best land and water resources for golf courses and resorts, forcing them to assimilate and forgo their own sovereignty while they mismanaged the land.

The Europeans brought diseases and poverty to native Hawaiians! Colonizers brought infectious diseases and illnesses such as measles, chicken pox, polio and tuberculosis killed thousands of Hawaiians. By Swanson's estimates, 1-in-17 Native Hawaiians had died within two years of Cook's arrival. By 1800, the population had declined by 48% since Cook set foot on Hawaii.In Honolulu, environmental activists are seeking to displace the legacy of settler-colonial engineering and to remake their city according to Indigenous design knowledge. What is happening in Waikīkī might be a model for a new watershed urbanism.

The open-air, banyan-shaded International Marketplace re-opened in 2016 after a $500 million renovation; the landmark pink behemoth of the Royal Hawaiian and the colonial columns at Moana Surfrider have been brightened up. Sidewalks have been repaved with gleaming white flagstone. But walk a few blocks inland, and you are surrounded by midcentury mid-rise apartment buildings, their exterior walkways and lanais constructed of breezeblock and lava rock, untouched signage riveted to their walls — “Skyliner,” “Waikīkī Winds,” “Pan Pacific.” Palms and banyans disappear along with the breeze, and heat rising from the concrete becomes more noticeable. A few blocks farther, and you’ll hit the stagnant waters of the two-mile-long Ala Wai Canal.

The canal testifies to the persistence of another midcentury illusion; that is, that water can be effectively controlled through massive engineering projects. Construction on the Ala Wai, whose name translates as “waterway,” began in 1921 and was completed in 1928. The canal was built at the behest of the Territorial Board of Health to drain nineteen square miles, almost a third of urbanized Honolulu; it functions as an estuary to prevent flooding between the ocean and the termini of Oʻahu’s freshwater streams, which have mostly now been channelized and buried. When tides rise, salt and freshwater mix in the canal.

With heavy rains come animal waste, trash, and surface pollutants from automobile traffic that wash in and stagnate, creating conditions under which bacteria like Vibrio vulnificus, a cause of life-threatening skin infections, can thrive. As if all this weren’t worrisome enough in the era of climate crisis, a rising sea is encroaching from the beach side, while increased volumes of stormwater enter from the city side. The structural integrity of Ala Wai is emerging as a major concern for nearby residents and the Army Corps of Engineers alike. The future of Waikīkī, in many ways the central image of the state, is tenuous.


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