Greensburg, Kansas Resident Offers Insider's View

View from a grain elevator in Greensburg. Nearly all of the town's buildings were destroyed or heavily damaged by the May 4, 2007 tornado.

The middle of nowhere and the center of everything. That is how it feels in Greeensburg, Kansas right now. May 4 (Sunday) is the anniversary of the storm that destroyed the town. It is a bit surreal all that has occurred in the past year. And this week just seems reflective of that year. A multitude of media outlets from around the world is in town and the President is coming to speak and acknowledge the success of the recovery. There are over 30 buildings being rebuilt to exemplary levels of energy efficiency and green building standards (it will be the largest concentration of LEED certified buildings in the country). The power supply for the town is planned to be 100% renewables and there is a green industrial park being developed to create many green collar jobs. Many houses are also exceptionally green and many more are planned. Without a doubt (from me anyway) Greensburg will be "America's greenest city".After the storm last year there were many saying that it was a death blow, that this town, which by many measures was dying before the storm certainly couldn't come back after such a blow. But, those that were saying that underestimated the character and resilience of the residents. Fast forward one year and you see that not only is this town back, but it has become a force in this country for change. The kind of change that people that visit this website dream about. This very unlikely place (Western Kansas) to find leaders and visionaries for the environmental movement has found dozens of them here that have taken an enormous challenge and responded with astonishing effectiveness. Truly inspiring.

A sign thanking volunteers.

I guess this really shouldn't surprise me (and others) so much. These are people whose heritage is homesteading pioneers. They live off the land and they deal with adversity in a much more natural and organic way. Community isn't a quaint concept for them, they live it, that is all they know. Farmers and ranchers are generally multi-talented problem solvers, innovative and often "thinking outside the box". And ask anybody out here if they would like us to have energy independence and you'll always hear,"of course". This demographic is one that was oddly lost from the environmental movement when it became a politicized issue. Why did we all let that happen? We have not framed it very well to include these people and what I have found is that when they are invited in, in a respectful way, they are very excited about being a part of the solution. In fact, as you'll see in the weeks and months ahead, they have provided a spark and a passion that could be the best thing that has happened to our environment in decades.

The vision is to make Greensburg "a living laboratory" that will show the world how a town on the cutting edge of sustainability looks. We see it as a giant science museum where people will come and learn and be inspired. The latest products and technologies will be demonstrated here. Doesn't that sound wonderful? We are very excited. Like most museums, we need support. Check out our one million $5 donation campaign at greensburggreentown.org. And, we would love more visitors in Greensburg (after this week!). Finally, if you are a product manufacturer with an interest of having your product on display in homes, commercial or public buildings, please let us know. Those that already have, have found it to be a great showcase.

Daniel Wallach is executive director of Greensburg GreenTown, a private nonprofit that is helping lead the effort to rebuild Greensburg, Kansas. Check out his previous posts.

::Tune in to Planet Green June 4 for Greensburg, a dramatic 13-part documentary series following the rebirth of a rural town.

More on Greensburg
::Greensburg, Kansas: Extraordinary Transformation
::The TH Interview: Taylor Schmitt, Student at Greensburg High
::The TH Interview: Randy Fulton, Principal of Greensburg High
::President Bush to Speak at Greensburg, Kansas Graduation
On Planet Green
::Renovation Nation Host Steve Thomas Visits Greensburg
::The People of Greensburg Need Your Help

Tags: Activism | Architecture | Construction | Natural Disasters

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