The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
UUSC Statement on the Wildfires in Maui
“We are deeply saddened by this turn of events and we are committed to being in solidarity with the communities most impacted by these fires. The patterns of disparity, displacement, and neglect following climate emergencies are experienced by UUSC partners across the globe. We are disheartened—though not surprised—to learn of the ways intersecting forms of oppression are causing lasting existential harm to Indigenous communities impacted by the wildfires.
“We are learning—and affirming—a number of things that are inspiring us to act in response to this disaster. We hope that sharing some of what we’ve learned is helpful to many who are seeking ways to support a just recovery.
“UUSC has seen how disasters expose and exacerbate existing social inequities. The wildfires in Maui exposed an existing housing and economic crisis that many residents and Native Hawaiian communities have been advocating about—what we now know as, ‘the two Hawaiis.’ Prohibitive housing costs and tourism gentrification have forced many Native Hawaiians from their homes—many of whom will be unable to rebuild without significant help.
“Disasters and the climate crisis also threaten historical landmarks and sacred sites of Indigenous Peoples. Lahaina, the Kingdom’s first capital and sacred to all Kanaka Maoli, was completely destroyed within hours. The loss, damage, and trauma that this has on Kanaka Maoli and future generations is significant and will require transformative approaches to how we respond because current federal government responses will be inadequate. Hence the need for a governance framework that addresses the different climate risks that Indigenous Peoples and other frontline communities experience.
“Finally, recovery doesn’t only include rebuilding homes and infrastructure. It will include healing and reinstating the cultural fabric that was destroyed with the wildfires and this will take time—the need for justice-centered and human rights-based responses must be central to this process and should respect Indigenous values and actively include the engagement of Native Hawaiians in all decision-making processes.”
UUSC is working to understand and address the long-term repercussions of the intersections of the climate crisis and disaster justice, but in the short term, you can help. Though we are not creating our own emergency response in Hawaii, the following organizations are on the ground providing aid and care for communities most impacted.