Rebuilding Greensburg Green

Everyone assumed this Kansas town was destined to fade away. What would it take to reverse its course?

(Fredric Heeren)

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"My family wasn't against it," says another junior, Levi Smith. "My dad always thought wind generators and recycling made sense. But we never really did it—until after the tornado." A few in the community still ridicule alternative energy, seeing it as a radical political issue. "Those negative feelings are dying fast," says Smith.

Taylor Schmidt, a senior in the school's Green Club, agrees: "It's really encouraging that every day more kids are learning about it and figuring out: 'Oh, this really makes sense.' Every day the next generation is becoming more excited about green, and everything it entails, whether it be alternative energy, conservation, recycling—they get it, and they choose to be educated. This affects every single person on earth, every single life, now and to come."

Greensburg gets it. Old and young, they have been on a faster track in their green education than perhaps any other people on earth. "In the midst of all the devastation," says Bob Dixson with a slight quaver in his voice, "we have been blessed with a tremendous opportunity, an opportunity to rebuild sustainable, to rebuild green. It brought us together as a community, where we fellowship together and we plan together about the future. So we've been very blessed, and we know we have a responsibility to leave this world better than we found it."

And that's how a tornado became a twist of destiny for Greensburg, ensuring that a town expected to "dry up and blow away" met only half its fate.

Fred Heeren is a science journalist who has been writing a book about paleontology for so many years that he says he can include personal recollections from the Stone Age.


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