The White House and the legacy media are ready to move on from the disastrous wildfires that ravaged Maui, but the story of what happened there shouldn’t go away.
There’s now plenty of evidence that authorities were warned about the danger of dry grass that had built up on the Hawaiian island. Poor decisions and bad policies led to one of the deadliest natural disasters in American history.
Hundreds of people, perhaps close to a thousand, died in the fires. We need to understand why this happened to prevent future disasters.
“Report after report over nearly a decade warned state and Maui County officials that the grasses—which are up to 10 times as dense as those commonly found on the mainland—were bound to cause more fires,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “Maui’s own fire department managers raised repeated concerns over unsafe vegetation and pointed to previous wildfires that sparked in grasslands as evidence, transcripts from years of county meetings show.”
Despite this tsunami of fire that was building to strike Hawaii, signs of trouble were ignored and literal warning sirens never went off.
It seems that Americans have picked up on this reality and just aren’t buying some officials’ climate change narrative. When you seeheadlines in legacy media outlets saying things like “Why climate change can’t be blamed entirely for the Maui wildfires,” you know that the “climate crisis” message isn’t selling as well as they’d hoped.
Given ample evidence that Hawaii’s political and business leadership was the real spark of the deadly fires, Democrats and left-wing commentators either have tried to ignore the facts or lean into other explanations for the disaster.
A popular explanation on the Left is that “colonialism” is the real reason for Hawaii’s problems. The simplified story goes that the colonial transformation of the islands from sugar cane production to tourism caused a huge amount of dry grass to build up on former plantation land. Hence the fires.
In a literal sense, this is true. Hawaiian land use has changed quite a bit since the United States took control of Hawaii over a century ago. But fires haven’t been unheard of, even in much better conditions. In 1919, a blaze that hit Lahaina caused significant damage and loss of life. A series of errors worsened the disaster.
A century has passed, and there is even less of an excuse for allowing history to repeat itself.
Are we supposed to believe that without U.S. involvement, the island of Maui would be a pristine tropical paradise under the hand of a benevolent monarch, where economic development remained a needless trifle and fires never happened? Please.
This is how the Left deflects blame and keeps its ideological adherents in line. Instead of confronting the problem of failed leadership and foolish policy choices, radical leftists go back to the reliable well of narrative peddling and racial resentment.
Hawaii essentially has had a single-party government since the 1950s. That’s a good place to start looking for reasons why President Joe Biden and the legacy media are walking away from this story.
Pay no attention to the Democrat behind the curtain pulling the wrong levers, failing at basic responsibilities, and making a hash out of a manageable situation. Instead, pretend that events from a century and a half ago made the local Hawaiian power utility—with pressure from the state Legislature—pour most of its efforts and money into green projects while spending a pittance on land management.
“Colonialism” didn’t make Hawaiian Electric spend, according to The Wall Street Journal, less than $245,000 on wildfire-specific projects between 2019 and 2022 despite plenty of evidence that its infrastructure was becoming a massive danger.
Colonialism also didn’t cause a local official obsessed with “equity” to shut off water to Maui at a critical stage of the wildfires.
These were deadly errors made by people in positions of power and authority right now. Instead of complaining about “capitalism” or events 150 years ago, maybe put a microscope on those who’ve been running Hawaii for a long, long time.
Residents’ lives were ended, their property destroyed, and their communities decimated. A $700 check from the feds isn’t going to fix that.
Unless we draw the right lessons about what went wrong on Maui, we’ll continue to see similar catastrophes destroy other communities.
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