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Maui ‘climate-debunking’ disinformation should alarm local authorities

Following devastating blazes on the Hawaiian island, social and other media channels have again been used as platforms for environmentally un-sound arguments. Governments across the globe should heed this warning. 

lit matchstick

Space lasers by China and experimental energy weapons may have been the cause of the catastrophic fires that engulfed vast swathes of Maui earlier this month. Or at least that’s what some have come to believe. 

For years now, the internet has been alive with talk of how the rise in environmental disasters is proof nefarious global forces, backed by capitalism and governments, have started a civilisation end game, scaring us into submission and, eventually, economic slavery, with talk of ecological disasters and uninhabitable futures yet to be seen. Recent events on Hawaii have thrown gasoline onto the debate, then a match, and show that as catastrophes become more visible and unfathomably ferocious, arguments against scientific evidence are doubling down.

Debunked in a fact check video by Associated Press, the idea that either the US, China or ‘them’ purposefully set fire to communities using off or on world weapons that harness pure energy may sound far-fetched. But to dismiss these theories completely would be downplaying the challenge facing many climate scientists and policy makers right now, as Environment Journal explored in a feature last week.

Arguing that scientists needed to cut through narratives with clear information on the unfolding crisis as politicians fumble beneath the weight of scepticism and misinformation, Andrew Martin, Chief Executive of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, makes a strong case for expert influencers

Earlier this year, our investigation into low traffic neighbourhoods identified disinformation on a local and international level making regional and neighbourhood climate-related policies more difficult to enact. In 2022, our sister publication, Air Quality News, looked at Greater Manchester’s proposed Clean Air Zone, and the communications failure that surrounded it.

On Maui, residents of decimated communities – many of which live on ancestral lands with homes passed down through generations – need questions hanging over why they lost everything as much as they want what is being dubbed Plantation Disaster Capitalism.

Cold calls offering cash for plots and fire-ravaged buildings are now widely reported, raising alarm bells about a land grab getting underway. As does the fact water desperately needed to battle blazes ran low in some instances, blame for which can apparently be found in the swimming pools and manicured greens of luxury – and internationally managed – tourist infrastructure such as golf and hotel resorts. 

Few situations cast the uneven impact of the climate crisis in such sharp relief, with those contributing least suffering at the hands of those with most liability. And it’s in situations such as this that transparent communications at authority level are so desperately needed, with dubious ideas about covert attacks using next generation weaponry, and the proof of unsolicited offers to buy smoke damaged properties from traumatised people, are not disconnected. 

For those in the UK, the story may feel as far away as it is, geographically speaking. But the point remains the same. A weekend editorial which suggested ‘electric cars are made of pollution and human misery’, published in the national press, written by someone with vested interests in the energy industry, offers an example much closer to home with a similar message. It should not be left to the personal social media accounts of scientists to try provide a response. 

More features and opinion:

In an era of ecological crisis, we need experts as influencers

Environmental policy needs effective messaging: Here’s what that means

First of A Kind: FOAK thinking is essential in climate technology

WATCH: Can we feed the world without destroying it?

Image: Yaoqi

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