Your Views for August 2

‘I smell a rat’

The penalty for unauthorized lava viewing in Puna is a $5,000 fine and a year in jail.


That would be about right for climbing the fence into a nuclear power plant.

But for walking down a public road to look at a force of nature?

For simply wanting to see what is lighting up your sky?

For wanting to see firsthand what is destroying your neighbor’s property and lives and, maybe soon, your own?

For wanting to see something that has not happened for centuries, not to be repeated for centuries into the future?

This draconian legal penalty for an activity that harms no one is an act of contempt by the state toward the population here. Puna is the poorest province in Hawaii, and the legal penalty is life-devastating for most who (still) live here.

And the state knows it. And it does not care. Because it just wants you poor people gone from here.

Everything is about the convenience of the people wearing plastic badges with their pictures on them who are getting rich collecting overtime sitting under tarps waiting to arrest the rest of us and haul us off to jail for being human beings curious about the world in which we live. And for nothing more.

I am awakened before 6 a.m. most days by helicopter operators getting rich ferrying tourists over my property to view the lava. This goes on until after dark most days, seven days a week, more than 12 hours a day since early May.

The state is OK with that. No $5,000 fine and year in jail for waking us up before 6 a.m. for weeks on end to view the eruption.

But the rest of us are looking at $5,000 and a year in jail if we do not have hundreds of dollars for a helicopter ride.

The draconian penalties for “unauthorized lava viewing” give helicopter operators a total monopoly on this natural wonder. I smell a rat. This rat smells a lot worse than the volcano. Does anyone else smell it?

How can you not hold a government in contempt that uses the courts to terrorize its people this way?

How can you not hold a government in contempt that rewards a tiny cabal of wealthy people with a lucrative monopoly, while waking the other 99.999 percent in our beds and hounding us relentlessly from the sky every day of the week, then threatening to arrest us and ruin us if we want to see for ourselves what it is all about?

So cry me a river for the heroes with their badges who must “risk their lives” to swoop in and plant their boot on the neck of anyone who wants to see something awesome and beautiful, never to be witnessed again.

I have a better idea. Charge anyone who has to be rescued in a lava hazard zone $5,000 and a year in jail, plus expenses.

And start treating the rest of us like human beings instead of prisoners in your prison.


John Powers