Thursday, May 29, 2008

Greensburg, Kansas - a green phoenix rising

What if...
What if you lost your home in a tragic storm?
Would you be able to stay with neighbors or family?
What if your entire city was flattened by a tornado?
Where would you go? What would you do?
What if you were a Greensburg, Kansas resident? You would pick up the pieces and put them back together better than before. You would design a model city. Out of the rubble of stricken Greensburg, new hope has grown and a new vision is becoming a reality. Greensburg is rebuilding Green.
Where others saw tragedy, Greensburg leaders saw hope The citizens of Greensburg, Kansas, population aproximately 1,500, have taken tragedy and turned it on its ear with big plans to rebuild as a model green city. Town leaders are determined to become the first town in the United States to have all municipal projects built to the highest environmental and efficiency design standards. By rebuilding green they hope to breath new life into a town that was dying long before the tornado ripped it apart.

Kansas was built by extremely strong, and strong-willed, people. They braved a lot of hardships to settle here, on the open prairie, and they tamed it and made it theirs. Their blood still runs in Kansans veins... We are a strong, moral people, and we don't let anything get us down for long. We pick up and go on and live life... more aware than most. - Anita Hohl, Greensburg resident

Turned Green by a Twister - Brian Walsh, Time Magazine

The tornado had measured EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, the highest possible rating, and it left hardly a single wall standing. "I could only think of Hiroshima," remembers Lonnie McCollum, then the town's mayor. "Big strong men looked at what was left and were damn near in tears." Over 1,000 people — more than two-thirds of the town's population — were left homeless. Despite the help that poured in over the following weeks from FEMA, from charities and from nearby towns, residents feared their town had suffered a deathblow. Like many rural Midwestern towns, Greensburg had been losing population for years. Jobs had grown scarce, and few in the town's shrinking high school classes stayed on after graduation. Why rebuild a dying town? "We were barely making it before the tornado," says Wylan Fleener, whose century-old furniture store was reduced to a pile of bricks by the storm. "I thought about leaving every day."

A tornado-razed town is rebuilding green - Eric Mack, Plenty

Despite the near total devastation of the town, it became apparent... that Greensburg is not the sad, grieving place you would expect. A wealth of energy and optimism has arisen here along with many residents’ hopes to rebuild as the “Greenest Town in America” - an energy-efficient, low carbon-emitting, sustainable phoenix, powered, at least in part, by the forces of nature that once reduced it to rubble. “About a week or two after the storm, I was talking with our previous mayor,” recalls Greensburg City Manager Steve Hewitt. “We said ‘There’s an opportunity here. We can do whatever we want to start fresh and make this town over with new parks and new buildings, so why not go green?’” Soon afterwards, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius came to visit and threw her support behind the idea of a new Greensburg Greentown,” as the project has come to be known. Some of the projects have confounded local residents who care more about getting life back to normal than saving the environment. Devastated by tornado, Kansas town rebuilds on green plan - Apr 20, 2008, GREENSBURG, Kansas (AFP)

"I don't know and I don't care, just put a grocery store in town," said senior citizen Margaret Janct when asked what she thought of the plans. Town leaders launched a non-profit group to teach residents how to improve efficiency and reduce their environmental impact in the old farmer spirit of doing more with less. "The process for us was getting the community to understand what building green meant, and diffusing political issues of environmentalism," said Greensburg GreenTown director Daniel Wallach.

Interview with resident Anita Hohl - Greensburg - GreenTown, 11/18/07

“Green” is intimidating to so many people. Green doesn't have to mean spending thousands on high tech equipment. Green also means small things like: recycling; reusing; compact fluorescent bulbs; buying used when you can; low-flow showerheads and shorter showers; composting food waste for your own garden, a neighbor's garden, or a community garden; buying and eating local, and in season; lowering the thermostat in the winter, raising it in the summer; turning off lights when not needed; turning off the tap when brushing your teeth; growing edible plants instead of grass and ornamental plants in their yard, or at least using native plants; even just using a clothesline. Every little bit not only saves the environment, it saves money in the long run. How about playing a board game or going for a bike ride with their kids instead of all sitting zoned out in front of the television, or in separate rooms doing separate things with half a dozen lights on? That is green, too. My Grandparents were my earliest influences. My Grandpa was a farmer; my Grandmother had been a school teacher. Their lives were the model for my anti-consumerism... "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" was never verbally stated, but that is how they lived their lives. I learned my love of home cooking, gardening, canning, and crafts from my Grandmother, too, as well as my love for nature itself. What if you could do something?

Does this inspire you? Want to do something to be part of the rebirth of this amazing town? Consider becoming a part of the green answer: One Million $5 Donations campaign In honor of Earth Day and of the first anniversary of the storm that catalyzed the rebuilding and reimagining of the town of Greensburg, we have launched our efforts to fund the Green Initiative in Greensburg. Through this campaign we aim to show that " a million small things make for big change". This fund raiser will provide a boost to realize the ambitious vision of Greensburg and simultaneously illustrate the concept that little changes by a lot of people will attain the global changes we seek. Donate now. Greensburg: a story of community rebuilding - Discovery Networks, Executive Producer Leonardo Dicaprio

Blown Away: Destroyed in Seconds - Greensburg, KS - DiscoveryChannel
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Anita said...

Hi there!
Thank you for quoting me from my interview... I'm glad for all your posts for Greensburg! Do you live close?

Blog Editor said...

Hi Anita!

I live in Shawnee, KS about 4 1/2 hours east of you. We are hoping to come to Greensburg for the Barn Raising event in September.

I began reading about your town after attending a meeting about green rebuilding. After reading many articles and watching lots of videos I feel a kinship with you all. I have cried for you and prayed for you and I am very proud of how you all are rebuilding your community. Your quote says it all.

Your grandparents certainly passed along their wisdom to you! I am sure that after all that you have lost you have learned to count the true blessing that you have which no one can take away.

It is my wish that many people reading what I have written will want to help. Just let me know if there are any upcoming events or any special things happening that you would like to let my readers know about.

- Joy

Anita said...

Thanks, Joy!
You know our 5-4-7 Art Center was just certified as the first LEED Platinum building in Kansas... and we won the First annual international Sustainable Cities Award...
It is so exciting being a part of all this!

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