Friday, May 14, 2010

A Kansas Town Goes Green

There is a conservative PR campaign which promotes big business, corporate power and less government interference. Anyone who supports policies that are contrary to these policies are loudly labeled as 'liberals.' An example is the issue of global warming and living 'green.' Here's a story about a Kansas town that found truth in power.

Three years ago, the town of Greensburg, Kan., was almost totally destroyed by a tremendous tornado. Ninety percent of the population became instantly homeless. Eleven people died.

Near Main Street, there is still evidence of the devastation: Piles of brick and debris, flat empty lots filled with a dusting of snow and dirt, skeletons of trees that once made up the beautiful arbor that this town was known for.

But there is also new growth: a super-energy-efficient City Hall made from reclaimed brick and wood; an art center powered by the sun and wind; and in the distance a home modeled on a geodesic dome. They're things you wouldn't expect to find in rural conservative Kansas.

The Tornado Of May 4, 2007

The tornado of May 4, 2007, was immense — more then a mile and a half in diameter. The entire town of Greensburg is only slightly wider, just 2 miles. The twister had a perfectly formed eye, with winds sustained well over 200 miles an hour. With a force of nature that strong, nothing is left standing.

'We're Gonna Rebuild Green'

(T)he leadership of the town began to face some tough decisions.

Just days after the tornado, the town administrator Steve Hewitt, John Janssen, who was the City Council president when the tornado hit and the mayor at the time, Lonnie McCollum, all of whom had lost their homes, met near the spot where town hall used to be.

"I guess we were under the tent down by the courthouse probably, and we're sitting there going, 'You know, this is total devastation. We might as well do this right,' " Janssen says.

"We hadn't thrown the word green out there, but we were immediately talking about better building, smarter building and smarter grid — better infrastructure," Hewitt says.

"And within about 12 hours, Lonnie stood in this national TV interview, and he says, 'And by the way, we're gonna rebuild green,' " says Janssen.

'It Helped Us Heal'

But the thought of telling people to "go green" in red Kansas is something that doesn't seem possible. Green in that "save the planet" sense is thought of as a four-letter word here — associated with liberal tie-dyed tree huggers. Slowly though, many of the residents came around to the idea.

Jill and Scott Eller moved into their new home a year ago. It's sort of a geodesic dome that has been split in half to bookend a modern two-story house. It's bright and wide with a kitchen that fits their needs.

Today, they are glad about their decision to stick around and go green.

"People who've moved away, say, 'You know, I wished we'd thought about it a little more.' Because they sure miss being here, being part of this community," Scott says.

"With the green initiative, it helped us to heal. It gave us something to look forward to," Jill says.

The truth is that going 'green' isn't a liberal thing, it is just being smart.

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