When Disaster Strikes, Rebuild Green

As severe weather events become more and more frequent, we are constantly reminded of what we can lose in the blink of an eye. Last week, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius shared with me her eerie feelings upon seeing the footprint of an entire town erased in a matter of moments, and also the heartbreaking stories of the Greensburg residents who lost everything.

While it is hard not to dwell on the toll inflicted by the very rare F5 tornado, thoughts immediately turn to rebuilding. While no one questions whether Greensburg should be rebuilt, everyone should take a moment to question how.

I mean, think about it. If we could start over, what would we do differently? Would we take into consideration the cost of global warming in the shape of more and more extreme weather events? Would we make our cities and towns more sustainable? Would we make our homes and businesses more energy efficient so that every homeowner pays less on their bills every month? Would we make commutes as short as possible so that people can walk or bike if they choose? What would we do if we had the opportunity to do it all over?

This is the question Greensburg can answer. What will the Greensburg of tomorrow look like? What could rural America look like? The Governor's instincts are right on. She wants to make Greensburg the most sustainable, efficient, well-designed town in the whole country. And Greensburg is the perfect place to set the example.

The town has only around 1,500 residents, roughly 1,000 homes, 50 commercial businesses, 3 churches, 2 schools, and 1 hospital. It is in the heartland of the United States. And the town already has the perfect name -- it's GREENsburg, for goodness sake!

It is time to build our communities in greener ways that enhance our lifestyle and help combat global warming. Let's pull out all the stops. Let's make Greensburg Exhibit A of what we all know our future must look like. And who is going to help them? Calling all corporations, businesses, former presidents, and the federal government!

Let's all be a part of making this happen. Let's flood the governor's office with offers of help. We can do this and we can start now. Instead of allowing Greensburg to be a constant reminder of what can be lost in the blink of an eye, we have the opportunity to make Greensburg a beacon of hope for the possibility of a brighter tomorrow for us all.

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