Environmental Racism in Wai’anae – “disposable humanity” in the “dumping ground of O’ahu”

On July 19th, the City and Count of Honolulu executed its sweep of more than 350 residents from the strip of land at Maili point known as “Guardrails”.   The majority of the persons evicted were Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian). Among the evicted were many women and children.

Much of the news coverage has been biased against the houseless residents, framing them as a nuisance to be disposed of.   Bizarrely, KHON and KITV went so far as to give more time to the plight of evicted animals than to the stories of the people being evicted.  The Honolulu Star Advertiser, arriving late on the scene, emphasized the “fiery protest”, but not the distress and desperation.

The Hawaii Independent published an excellent series that captured the human tragedy of the eviction. It was the only news source that reported on the man who committed suicide the night before the sweeps due to the distress of enduring five evictions.  Residents reported that there were two other attempted suicides: another man tried to hang himself; and a woman went into the oncoming traffic on the highway.

The video posted by Darlene Rodrigues and Ikaika Hussey is an indictment of a society that treats people as disposable:

Some of the youth from Ka Makani Kaiaulu ‘O Wai’anae came down to “Guardrails” to document the eviction and gather stories from the residents.  Kuaika Kaeo wrote about what he witnessed, as did Kahaku Pinero here and here.

Meanwhile, as human beings are swept off the land, developers and officials eye Wai’anae for another landfill.   In an op ed piece, Bill Lyon argues against a regional park at a parcel in Lualualei and that the”highest and best use” of the land is another landfill. The site is near the existing construction and demolition landfill (PVT).  According to Mr. Lyon: “Leeward Land LLC, a sister company of PVT Land Co. Ltd., owns the land. Adjacent to the PVT construction and demolition (C&D) landfill, the land has been held in reserve for future expansion of the PVT landfill and has been on the city’s short list of potential landfill sites for 40 years.”

PVT literally sits in the backyard of several hundred families where high cancer and asthma rates have been reported by residents.  In Wai’anae, trash and toxic waste are a better use of land than people living or playing.

Meanwhile a man convicted of illegally dumping toxic tetracholoroethylene in Wai’anae was sentenced to prison. The link to the Honolulu Star Advertiser article seems to be broken.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *