Greening Greensburg, KS: A Closer Look, Part 1

Perhaps you remember last May, when the small (and shrinking) town of Greensburg, KS was practically obliterated by a tornado, and then left helpless as the local National Guard fights abroad. Today, the effort to rebuild is in full swing, including comprehensive efforts to create a model for a green, sustainable city. So let’s take a closer look – is this as good as it sounds? Mostly.

Rewinding a few months to just after the tornado, the national media jumped on this story. It strikes a similar chord as Hurricane Katrina – innocent, ordinary Americans (encompassing a wealth of our historical identity) whose lives have been wrecked by a natural disaster and then disappointed by our national government’s ability to manage the situation. (This, of course, is on a much smaller scale than Katrina-New Orleans.)

Then add some celebrity TLC: Brad Pitt to help rebuild New Orleans and Leonardo DiCaprio to help rebuild Greensburg – each with a green twist.

But something extraordinarily unique about the Greensburg situation is that it’s an opportunity for a demonstration project to build an entire eco-community under the national spotlight, and the timing is impeccable.

Before everyone gets too excited, I have to revert to my trip home to Kansas for the holidays where I was reminded/cautioned of two things:

  • A large part of the local momentum and excitement over the greening of Greensburg is the hope that it will repopulate the rural town. Can this eco-effort realize that hope, can it carry the pressure that it alone is being scrutinized as a way to revitalize rural America, or will Greensburg’s citizens ultimately be disappointed?
  • Underneath all the hype, these Kansans just want their lives back, and as guinea pigs in this scenario, the greening effort is slowing that down. Is the local commitment to this project as invigorated as it looks to outsiders?
  • Back home, I remember hearing an NPR special interviewing a youth about whether or not he’ll want to come back to a green Greensburg after he goes to college. He seemed pretty excited, but the truth is, time will answer the first question.

    Trying to get to the bottom of the second question, I’ve perused the local paper, the Kiowa County Signal, for signs of frustration with the process. So far, I haven’t found many (granted, the op-ed page is blank), but I also haven’t found entirely heartening news, either….

    To be continued….

    — Kari M.

    3 Responses to Greening Greensburg, KS: A Closer Look, Part 1

    1. Paul K says:

      Bill B. posted about Soldiers Grove, Wisc. going through green rebuilding.

    2. doctorj says:

      As a New Orleanian, I hope their lives can soon return to some semblance of normal. We call ours the “new normal”. I often think of Greensburg and how they are doing. At least New Orleans has enough of a national presence to be in the news occasionally. Enough at least that we have a constant stream of volunteers that are making a big difference in the miles and miles of devastation We also have a constant stream of visitors from all over the world that we take on tours of the devastation. “This is what the government thinks of us”, we can say to then. What do the small towns of America have once they are no longer a “story”? My heart goes out to you as only someone from another devastaed community can understand. God speed.

    3. Paul K says:

      Is there a green master plan?