Will the destruction of Hawaii’s Big Island volcano be a clean slate that is open for privatization?
The Kilauea volcano has erupted and spread lava across Hawaii’s Big Island on May 3rd. This natural disaster led to many earthquakes, including one May 4, “measured at magnitude 6.9 hitting the south flank of the volcano at 12:33 pm (local time) the most powerful to hit the island since 1975”, according to Al Jazeera News. The lava from the volcano has spread to and destroyed — or rendered uninhabitable — over 175 structures. There have been mandatory evacuations, however, the lava is swiftly moving towards vital exit routes. If those routes are blocked then the citizens and tourists will be trapped on the island.
Hawaii’s governor David Ige told CNBC on Tuesday that despite the lava, the island is “open for business.” The volcano and lava are spewing toxic gases and yet the governor is saying that the tourists should not let this stop them from coming to the island. His argument is that the lava is only affecting 1 percent of the island. But in reality, tourism is the islands biggest industry and they have already lost about 22 million dollars and thousands of jobs. The governor is merely concerned with the economy of the island rather than the safety of the tourists and citizens.
In my opinion, this natural disaster can be compared to Hurricane Katrina. Katrina was a horrible disaster that led to thousands of citizens and tourists neglected. The “bright side” to the disaster was that the hurricane created a clean slate and ultimately it let to privatization. This theory can be seen in Author Naomi Klein advanced this theory in her 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Klein calls it the shock doctrine, which is a “theory for explaining the way that force, stealth, and crisis are used in implementing neoliberal economic policies such as privatization, deregulation, and cuts to social services”. Applying this theory to hurricane Katrina, there was mainly an increase in charter schools that honestly did not benefit the community. In terms of the Kilauea volcano, for starters, as mentioned before the governor has little interest it the safety of the tourists or citizens and his primary focus is on getting more tourist on the island. More tourists on the island mean more money. With all the money they are losing, the county is struggling to adapt and deal with the situation. According to slides presented by Hawaii County Finance Director Deanna Sako, “the unanticipated costs include $745,721 in overtime (to May 15), $560,500 for road repairs, $65,000 for security and shelter, and almost $10,000 for meals and supplies. The anticipated impact on county revenues ranges from $3 million to $6 million, due to the reduced valuation of impacted properties and reduced real property tax collections”. This means that the county will have to find a way to cover the cost, they will either end up borrowing money or receiving it from corporations that wish to privatize and capitalize on this disaster. What happened in Katrina is a very real possibility here in Hawaii’s Big Island.
In order to understand how outside sources could come in and swoop in and privatize on Hawaii’s disaster, we must once again understand Klein’s theory. The metaphor that Klein uses to help us understand her theory is shock therapy. Shock therapy was done on trouble patients to create a clean slate so that a new personality could be made. So putting it in terms of disasters, the disaster is the shock therapy creating a blank slate and pushing neoliberal economic policies on the “clean slates.” The theory is pretty simple and once it is put into real life disasters it can get a lot more complicated. But when put in real life situations it is ultimately used to slash corporate taxes and public education and re-shape neighborhoods, like they did with Hurricane Katrina. In Klein’s words, “orchestrated raids on the public sphere in the wake of catastrophic events, combined with the treatment of disasters as exciting market opportunities.”
Minute 38:00, Council is discussing the budget and possible solutions to their financial damage and property tax increase.
So again, with Hawaii in need of money to “repair” damages, different sources could see this as a clean slate and might used Hawaii’s financial situation to their advantage. However, the volcano is still erupting and it is continually creating more damage making the cost even high. The rising financial damages might be more appealing to those that are looking to capitalize and privatize. We will have to wait and see what the final outcome will be. We can only hope that it is in the best interest of the citizens of Hawaii’s Big Island.