Rampaging wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui have killed at least 36 people and devastated Lahaina, the former capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom and a popular tourism destination. The fires, supercharged as though with a bellows by winds from Hurricane Dora hundreds of miles away, are incinerating fuel desiccated by months of drought.
Lahaina was an important political and cultural center even before the foundation of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1795, and was a central point of resistance against American occupation and annexation, as well as the displacement of subsistence fishing by the whaling industry, in the late 19th century.
“Our home is on fire right now. There needs to be more action and more investment,” Kaniela Ing, co-founder of the Native Hawaiian-focused organization Our Hawaii and a seventh-generation Kānaka Maoli, or indigenous Hawaiian, told NBC. “People hit first and worse by the climate crisis tend to be Black, indigenous and low-income. Yet we’re the keepers of the knowledge of how to build a society that wouldn’t cause ecological collapse and societal doom.” (Lahaina devastation: NBC, Hawaii News Now, KHON; Drought and climate change: New York Times $, Washington Post $; Additional coverage: The Conversation, AP, USA Today, Reuters, Washington Post $, The Independent, CNN; Climate Signals background: Wildfires, Drought)