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December 08, 2023 Introduction

Wake Up Everybody

By Judge Margaret Kuroda Masunaga (Ret.)

Wake Up Everybody!

“Wake Up Everybody” was an R&B soulful song from 1975 by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes with Teddy Pendergrass. The lyrics include,

Wake up everybody no more sleepin’ in bed. No more backward thinkin’ time for thinkin’ ahead. The world has changed so very much. From what it used to be so. There is so much hatred war an’ poverty. The world won’t get no better if we just let it be. Wake up, everybody.

Have you seen the headlines in 2023 of the historic disasters taking place? As of September 11, 2023, this has been the worst year on record for billion-dollar climate disasters, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The most near and dear to my heart was the firestorm on Maui that destroyed the historic town of Lahaina on August 8, 2023.

Tropical Storm Hilary, also in August 2023, was the first-ever tropical storm watch to be issued for Southern California, and it brought record-breaking rainfall and flooding.

Droughts in the South and Midwest in the spring and fall of 2023 were present in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Louisiana, and Texas. Agriculture and ranching in these areas have been impacted.

There have been 23 confirmed climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each in the United States alone! These events were one wildfire (Lahaina town destroyed), two floods, 18 severe storms, one tropical cyclone, and one winter storm.

There is a climate emergency.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reported the summer of 2023 was Earth’s hottest since global records began in 1880. June, July, and August were 0.41 degree Fahrenheit (0.23 degree Celsius) warmer than any other summer. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson stated the impacts of climate change are a threat to our planet and future generations and extreme weather is threatening lives and livelihoods around the world.

We tragically lost 97 people in the Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, wildfires on August 8, 2023. As of October 5, 2023, there are 31 unaccounted-for individuals. The Maui fire that impacted not only Lahaina but also Kula, Olinda, and Pulehu was attributed in part to dry, gusty conditions created by Hurricane Dora to the south and a high-pressure area north of Hawaii. At least 2,207 buildings were destroyed (including Lahaina Hongwanji, a sister Buddhist temple to my church Kona Hongwanji, and its classroom building and resident minister’s home). The total damage estimate for the Maui fires is $5.52 billion as of August 11, 2023. This fire is the largest in the United States since 1918.

This issue on environmental justice is very timely.

Justice Michael Wilson, who retired in February as an associate justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court, authored “Timely Judicial Recognition and Protection of Climate Rights.” He states there is a “climate emergency” and “climate injustice will persist, worsen, and cause the erosion of the rule of law as a cascading environmental catastrophe ensues.”

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski provides an excellent article titled “Alaska’s Contaminated Lands Are an Environmental Injustice.” Senator Murkowski conducted a field hearing in Unalaska in 2022.

Alexandra Dapolito Dunn and Irma S. Russell wrote an informative piece on “Inclusiveness: Advancing Environmental Justice in a Diverse Democracy.” In their article, they mention the 1982 study by Dr. Robert Bullard, Solid Waste Sites and the Black Houston Community, which found 80 percent of municipal trash incinerators and 75 percent of privately owned dumps were located in majority Black neighborhoods although only 25 percent of the Houston population was Black.

Deborah Greenspan writes about the challenges involved in working on the Flint water litigation due to the case’s complex legal and scientific issues.

Alf Brandt reviews historical environmental cases and provides information on The National Judicial College course on water rights.

Marla N. Greenstein interviewed Judge M. Margaret McKeown about her book Citizen Justice: The Environmental Legacy of William O. Douglas—Public Advocate and Conservation Champion and wrote a short book review.

Daniel F. Gourash also wrote an article on what judges need to know about “forever chemicals,” or PFAS.

Mahalo nui loa to Marla N. Greenstein for being the coauthor of this issue with me. I am honored to serve as co-chair of The Judges’ Journal with retired Judge Frank J. Bailey. The 2023–2024 Judges’ Journal editorial board includes Judge Victor Bolden, Judge Stephanie Domitrovich, Judge Elizabeth R. Finn, Daniel F. Gourash, Judge Christopher J. McFadden, Judge Alexander K. McVeagh, Judge Jennifer M. Russell, Judge Herbert B. Dixon Jr., and Marla N. Greenstein. Our fearless leader is Melissa Hodek, Managing Editor, ABA Publishing.

Judge Margaret Kuroda Masunaga (Ret.)

Co-Chair, The Judges’ Journal

Judge Margaret Kuroda Masunaga (Ret.) is the co-chair of The Judges’ Journal, a quarterly publication of the ABA Judicial Division. She is also on the Executive Committee of the NCSTJ, ABA Judicial Division, and the Library of Congress Advisory Commission. Judge Masunaga is retired and lives on a Kona coffee farm with her husband Gail in Captain Cook, Hawaii. Her daughter Colette is married to William Liang, and they live in Seattle. Her youngest daughter Jana is a senior at the University of California at Irvine.

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