Navigating Hawai’i’s Crisis: Ultrawealthy Intrusion and Local Resilience

In the tranquil landscapes of Hawai’i, where the allure of paradise meets the clash of cultures, a crisis unfolds—one dominated by the ultrawealthy. The picturesque scenes painted in glossy publications often overshadow a darker reality: a struggle for Hawaiians and locals against the encroachment of the powerful elite.

Gated Paradises and Indigenous Discomfort


Driving into the Mauna Kea Resort, the contrast between the idyllic facade and the underlying unease becomes apparent. Gated communities, once accepted as a norm, now stand as symbols of a disconcerting relationship between the ultrawealthy and those with generational ties to Hawai’i. The artificial barriers, intended to create a paradise for visitors, inadvertently create barriers for the local populace.

As an Indigenous person, the discomfort runs deep. The coastlines, meant to be open to the public, are dotted with homes and large estates, each gated and under constant surveillance. The aftermath of the Maui wildfires in August has brought this uneasy relationship to the forefront, prompting reflection even from figures like Dwayne Johnson.

Ultrawealthy Contributions: A Questionable Narrative

Dwayne Johnson’s acknowledgment of potential insensitivity in soliciting donations post-Maui wildfires raises a pertinent question: will other ultrawealthy individuals follow suit in recognizing their role in Hawai’i’s narrative? The profound hurt witnessed in the aftermath extends beyond the loss of life and property. It resonates with the fear that this crisis might be the tipping point for Native Hawaiians and those deeply rooted in the islands.

Hawai’i’s Devastation: A Paradise Lost

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Hawai’i, far from being a paradisiacal playground, grapples with challenges that extend beyond the invasion of the ultrawealthy. Extractive agriculture, overdevelopment, and militarization have scarred its lands and waters. The recent Maui wildfires serve as a stark reminder that Hawai’i is not immune to the global climate catastrophe, posing a critical question: Can locals weather this disaster alongside the influx of the most powerful money on the planet?

The Economic Fallout and a Call for Change

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Mahina Paishon Duarte, vice chair of the Hawai’i Tourism Authority, emphasizes the need for a reset. As billionaires and multimillionaires flock to Hawai’i, she advocates for community-led solutions and Indigenous innovation as the core of crisis management. In an open letter, she suggests that this moment is an opportunity to learn and do better without burdening the local population.

"It is imperative that we unapologetically center community-led solutions and Indigenous innovation at the core of the crises that we are facing," she asserts.

The Road Ahead: Bridging the Gulf

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The crucial question emerges: How can billionaires be persuaded to rethink their relationship with Hawai’i and its people? Duarte’s plea for acknowledging Native knowledge as crucial in navigating the way forward echoes a sentiment shared by many. The crisis in Hawai’i demands not just financial contributions but a profound shift in perspective, a recognition that the islands are more than just a playground for the ultrawealthy.

In reevaluating this relationship, Hawai’i’s crisis as a playground for the ultrawealthy can transform into an opportunity for collaboration, understanding, and the preservation of the islands’ unique cultural and environmental heritage.

Navigating Complexities: Key Questions Surrounding Hawai’i’s Playground for the Ultrawealthy

How are the Maui Wildfires Affecting the Local Population?

The summer wildfires in Maui mark the most significant environmental catastrophe in Hawaiian history. Among them, the deadliest wildfire in the United States since 1918 wreaked havoc on Lahaina, resulting in near-total destruction. This unprecedented event forced a mass displacement of the local population, compounding the already dire situation. Moreover, the aftermath brought about widespread power outages, further intensifying the challenges faced by the affected communities.

Why does Hawai’i face a crisis as a playground for the ultrawealthy?

Hawai’i’s allure as a paradisiacal playground is overshadowed by a deep-seated crisis. The lands and waters, once pristine, bear the scars of extractive agriculture, rampant overdevelopment, and militarization. The recent Maui wildfires serve as a poignant reminder that Hawai’i is not exempt from the global climate catastrophe, dispelling the notion of an immune island paradise. The influx of the ultrawealthy exacerbates this crisis, limiting opportunities for Native Hawaiians and further diminishing the affordability and livability of the islands, prompting a hastened exodus of the local population.

Are there efforts to mitigate the economic fallout for Native Hawaiians?

Data reveals the severe impact of the pandemic and the coronavirus recession on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. However, strides have been made through initiatives like the American Rescue Plan and other equity-focused programs. These efforts target U.S. workers, families, and businesses, contributing to the full recovery of many groups within the AANHPI community from the economic crisis. Yet, the question remains: are there specific measures in place to specifically address and mitigate the economic fallout for Native Hawaiians?

Are Ultrawealthy and Generational Ties Reexamined After Maui Fires?

The idyllic notion of "Aloha" takes a sober turn as the aftermath of the devastating Maui fires prompts a reexamination of the intricate relationship between the ultrawealthy and those deeply rooted in Hawai’i for generations. The uneasy dynamic, once accepted, now faces scrutiny in the wake of the August fires. This introspection is not limited to the local community; even figures like Dwayne Johnson acknowledge the need for a profound reassessment in the aftermath of this horrific event.

Why is Hawaii Losing Population?

In a trend defying the norm, Hawaii has experienced a continuous decline in population over the past several years. This alarming phenomenon is a consequence of the exorbitant cost of living, creating a challenging environment that propels people to relocate. The high cost of living not only affects the current demographic landscape but also acts as a catalyst for an impending kupuna crisis, emphasizing the complex interplay between economic factors and demographic shifts in the Hawaiian archipelago.

Why do Native Hawaiians Live Outside of Hawai’i?

The plight of Native Hawaiians living outside their homeland stems from a confluence of factors that limit opportunities within the islands. The restrictive nature of land usage, driven by the blocking off of already scarce lands, contributes to Hawaii becoming less affordable and less livable for the local population. This challenging environment acts as a catalyst, accelerating the exodus of Native Hawaiians from their homelands. An alarming statistic underscores the severity of this issue—more Native Hawaiians now reside outside of Hawai’i than within its borders.

Does Hawaii Have a Kupuna Crisis?

The looming kupuna crisis in Hawaii serves as a poignant reminder that the challenges faced by the state extend beyond the economically vulnerable. Often overshadowed in discussions, this crisis impacts everyone, transcending specific demographics such as people in poverty, those without homes, and the working poor. The broader implications of this impending crisis emphasize the need for comprehensive strategies that address the multifaceted challenges affecting the entire Hawaiian population.

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