Dr. Nicholas Reksten is an expert on environmental economics at the University of Redlands and can speak with authority about the impact of the Kilauea volcano eruption and the Fuego volcano eruption on the environment and the economy in both Hawaii and Guatemala. 

"As with most natural disasters, this volcanic eruption will have direct and indirect costs. The initial cost is the loss of life and injury. The direct costs at this time are property damage to homes, cars, and infrastructure. 

"The less obvious indirect costs include things like lost productivity as people evacuate the area and don't work as they normally might or loss of tourist revenues as people avoid the island to stay clear of this or another volcano," Reksten says. 

"We also see the common theme of zoning and developing come up in the story of this disaster.  Reading about the destruction of the Leilani Estates subdivision (in Hawaii), it is shocking that houses were ever built here.  The Kilauea volcano has an active history, with lava flows appearing nearby in the 1950s (the subdivision was first developed in the 1960s) and continuous eruptions since the 1980s.  The volcano destroyed part of a nearby town in the 1990s.  It should have been seen as extremely likely that an eruption could impact the homes there. 

"It reflects issues that we saw with zoning and development in last year’s wildfires here in California and Houston’s damage from Hurricane Harvey.  In each case, homes have been built and land developed in places that greatly increases the likelihood of damage or, in the case of Harvey, made flooding worse.  As the populations of these places grow, policymakers should more carefully consider where they are allowing homes and businesses to be built.  If they wish to accommodate larger populations, denser, rather than more widespread, development may be the better option in many cases."