The Maui Wildfires

Spread the love


By Paul Homewood

Unprecedented wildfires burning on the Hawaiian island of Maui have displaced thousands of residents, destroyed parts of a centuries-old town, and killed at least 96 people.

The disaster is one of the deadliest US wildfires in recent years.

The fast-moving fires, fanned by the winds of a distant hurricane, exploded overnight and moved so quickly that some residents jumped into the ocean to escape the flames and smoke. Crews are continuing to battle the fires, which have burnt through multiple neighborhoods, including the historic town of Lahaina.

“We just had the worst disaster I’ve ever seen. All of Lahaina is burnt to a crisp. It’s like an apocalypse,” said Mason Jarvi, a Lahaina resident who escaped.

The Climate Establishment has been desperate to blame the tragic Maui fires on climate change, even though there is no evidence of this whatsoever. The fires were fanned by the strong winds brought from Hurricane Dora hundreds of miles away, at a time of year when vegetation is always parched.

So the Guardian leaps on board with this irresponsible and untruthful claim:

The climate crisis, driven by fossil fuel use, is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, including wildfires like the ones Maui is grappling with.

Climate change not only increases the fire risk by driving up temperatures, but also makes stronger hurricanes more likely. In turn, those storms could fuel stronger wind events like the one behind the Maui fires.

The situation in Hawaii recalled scenes of devastation elsewhere in the world this summer, as wildfires caused by record heat forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people in Greece, Spain, Portugal and other parts of Europe, and Canada suffered unusually severe fires.

The so-called climate crisis is not increasing extreme weather events, or wildfires, as the Guardian lazily claims. Neither is it making hurricanes stronger. (Dora BTW was a Cat 4 storm). Some meteorologists believe that the direct impact of Dora was very small anyway – the strong winds, they argue, resulted from a high pressure gradient between Dora to the south and high pressure to the north.

And there was nothing unusual about the wildfires in Europe, even though the Guardian would like you to believe that Earth is becoming some sort of giant inferno.

Regardless of the exact meteorological set up, the fires were a tragedy waiting to happen, as USA Today explain:

Clay Trauernicht, a professor of natural resources and environmental management at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said it would be misleading to simply blame weather and climate for the blazes.

Instead, Trauernicht, who noted in 2018 that the area burned annually by wildland fire in Hawaii has quadrupled in recent decades, pointed to unmanaged, nonnative grasslands that have flourished in Hawaii after decades of declining agriculture.

“These savannas now cover about a million acres across the main Hawaiian islands, mostly the legacy of land clearing for plantation agriculture and ranching in the late 1800s/early 1900s,” he wrote in a series of posts on the social platform X, formerly Twitter.

The transformation to savannas makes the land much more susceptible to the hot, dry and windy conditions that produce such wildfires, Trauernicht said, with much more buildup of fire fuels during rainy periods. Agricultural declines, meanwhile, also make firefighting more difficult as roads become unmaintained, irrigation and water storage lessen and those familiar with the land move away.

“The burden Hawaii’s current fire problem places on emergency responders, the impacts on farms and ecosystems, the losses our community’s experiencing right now – it’s mostly from benign neglect,” he wrote.

While maddening, the situation also offers a glimmer of hope, Trauernicht said.

“Hawaii’s fire problem could be far, far more manageable with adequate support, planning and resources for fuel reduction projects, agricultural land use and restoration and reforestation around communities and the foot of our forests,” he wrote.

He also states:

The wet season could spur plants like Guinea grass, an invasive species found across parts of Maui, to grow as quickly as 6in (15cm) a day and reach up to 10ft (3 meters) tall. That grass creates a tinderbox that’s ripe for wildfire as it dries out.

You’re almost talking of a forest of grass.

The land in Hawaii was originally cleared mainly for sugar and pineapple plantations, which ironically brought riches to the islands and an influx of workers from the mainland. The Washington Post took up the story in 2017:

KAHULUI, Maui — Tens of thousands of abandoned acres of farmland lie fallow on this island, cemeteries of Hawaii’s defunct plantation era, which met its end last year when the state’s last remaining sugar grower shut down an operation that had run for 146 years.

Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.’s sprawling sugar cane fields used to provide visitors to Maui a rolling green blanket as they arrived at the airport, but they are newly stagnant, joining other growers in a long decline. Facing competition from cheap foreign labor, a shortage of farmworkers and some of the nation’s highest land costs, the sugar and pineapple plantations that used to be the state’s lifeblood are not redeploying into active agriculture, raising questions about the industry’s future here.

“Pineapple is lost, sugar is lost, and we now have one sole industry, which is a very dangerous position to be in,” said Maui County Councilman Alika Atay. “We have put all our eggs into one basket, and that is tourism. But not everybody who lives on this island wants to work in the hotel industry, and it’s almost impossible to feed a family here working as a farmer. We are now seeing drastic displacement of young people leaving Maui because of a lack of economic opportunity.”

The closure of Maui’s last sugar producer marked a pivotal moment in Hawaii’s agricultural production. Since 1980, Hawaii’s total land use for agricultural production has shrunk by about 68 percent, according to data from the University of Hawaii.

Sugar had, at one point, been Hawaii’s top crop. Now the corn seed industry is the state’s dominant agricultural land user, followed by commercial forestry and macadamia nuts. But none of those products, not even when combined, come anywhere close to filling the economic void created by the loss of sugar and pineapple.

The sugar industry, which helped usher Hawaii into statehood, steered the state’s politics and economy for more than a century. It helped build company towns inhabited by multiethnic field laborers from Asia and Europe.

With statehood came U.S. labor laws, inspiring Hawaii’s biggest sugar and pineapple producers to embrace cheaper foreign labor. As monocrop agriculture declined, the state put its economic faith in tourism, which accelerated as jet plane travel became faster and more affordable. Plantation companies either vanished or transitioned into land-development firms.

The passage of the plantation heyday has been slow but impactful. In 1980, Hawaii hosted 14 sugar and four pineapple plantations that farmed more than 300,000 acres. In 2017, these two crops account for less than 5,000 acres. Once the largest pineapple plantation in the world, the island of Lanai’s former crop beds are now parched and deserted.

It is ironic that the forest clearances, which brought wealth to Hawaiians, are now ultimately responsible for so many deaths now.