What if they built a green town and no one came?

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What if they built a green town and no one came?

[cap­tion id=“attachment_54664” align=“alignright” width=“240”]West of Greensburg, Kansas in 2007 West of Greens­burg, Kansas in 2007[/caption]

By John Ruberry

Seven years ago ninety-​percent of the small west­ern Kansas town of Greens­burg was destroyed by an F5 tor­nado. Two months later I vis­ited there. Most of the rub­ble had been cleared away, FEMA hous­ing was preva­lent, as was the sound of rebuild­ing – power saws and ham­mers at work. The peo­ple I spoke with in Greens­burg were hope­ful and they didn’t expect me to feel sorry for them – I love the rural Midwest.

Later that year, Greens­burg, which prior to the deadly twister was best known as the site of the world’s largest hand-​dug well, made the deci­sion to rebuild as a green energy town.

When the tor­nado hit, Greens­burg, the seat of Kiowa County, had about 1,500 res­i­dents. Accord­ing to the the US Cen­sus Bureau, only 777 peo­ple lived in Greens­burg in 2010.

A week ago the Kansas City Star pub­lished a story with the head­line, Greens­burg, Kan., rebuilds from 2007 tor­nado — now it just needs more people.

From the Star:

Inter­na­tional expo­sure, fed­eral dis­as­ter aid and public-​private part­ner­ships gave rise to some of the green­est and most visu­ally arrest­ing pub­lic facil­i­ties of any city 100 times Greenburg’s size.

They included a $30 mil­lion hos­pi­tal sport­ing angled, exte­rior walls and a new K-​12 school cam­pus that uses 55 per­cent less water than the destroyed one.

A whirring flock of wind tur­bines pro­vides enough energy to the elec­tric grid over the year to power every house, busi­ness and munic­i­pal build­ing in Greensburg.

Patrons of the Bar H Tav­ern on U.S. 54 worry, though, that a com­mu­nity of 800 won’t be able to afford the main­te­nance on those tur­bines and the school’s dual-​flush toi­lets. “Not every­one agrees with all this green stuff,” one local said. “What we really need is more people.”

So despite the many expen­sive platinum-​level LEED build­ings and the ten wind-​turbine sur­round­ing the town, “this green stuff” didn’t work out. Okay, that may be a cheap shot, since Great Plains towns such as Greens­burg have been hem­or­rhag­ing peo­ple, believe it or not, since the end of the First World War. So Greensburg’s pop­u­la­tion almost cer­tainly would have con­tin­ued its slide had the tor­nado not hit.

[cap­tion id=“attachment_54665” align=“alignright” width=“240”]Greensburg flags Greens­burg, late July, 2007[/caption]

Cheap hous­ing was one of Greens­burg draw­ing cards, but home prices, although there is not a munic­i­pal require­ment to build green, have more than dou­bled there since 2007. In most parts of Amer­ica, home prices have plum­meted since then.

Think about that.

Greens­burg had hoped to lure green indus­try firms to the Plains, includ­ing solar-​panel man­u­fac­tur­ers, but offi­cials are blam­ing the con­tin­u­ing lan­guid econ­omy for their absence.

I have another expla­na­tion: Per­haps green con­struc­tion and renew­able energy are a blind alley, at least in the short term. Maybe it will be that way for­ever. Sure, the wind tur­bines sup­ply enough energy for a town with fewer than a thou­sand res­i­dents, but could the unre­li­able, unpre­dictable, and expen­sive power source work for nearby Dodge City?

What about Kansas City?

While I cer­tainly give Greens­burg credit for try­ing some­thing new to end to the exo­dus from its cor­ner of the Plains, per­haps it’s time for it to reverse course.

Or they can look for­ward to a time when the green move­ment is an his­toric curios­ity, along the lines of the world’s largest hand-​dug well, and then trans­form Greens­burg into an envi­ron­men­tal­ist reen­act­ment com­mu­nity – some­thing like Colo­nial Williamsburg.

John ruberryJohn Ruberry blogs at Marathon Pun­dit.

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[olimome­ter id=5]

It’s sun­day and nor­mally I would be pitch­ing for this weeks $365 goal.

But right now it’s also March 30th. The Mort­gage is due tomor­row. After a suc­cess­ful first year Feb­ru­ary was our worst month on record and March is about to outdo it.

As of yes­ter­day when I hit the sack we were $797 of the mortgage.

To put that into per­spec­tive we could meet our weekly goal today AND match it tomor­row and still be about $70 short.

With God all things are pos­si­ble but with­out your help it’s going to take a mir­a­cle to keep the bills paid around here.

I ask you to give that help and hit DaTip­Jar below.

If 61 of you hit Sub­scribe at $20 a month sub­scribers this site will be able to cover its bills for a full year and things will be a lot more like Alito and Kagan around here than Kennedy & Roberts reliable..


West of Greensburg, Kansas in 2007
West of Greensburg, Kansas in 2007

By John Ruberry

Seven years ago ninety-percent of the small western Kansas town of Greensburg was destroyed by an F5 tornado. Two months later I visited there. Most of the rubble had been cleared away, FEMA housing was prevalent, as was the sound of rebuilding–power saws and hammers at work. The people I spoke with in Greensburg were hopeful and they didn’t expect me to feel sorry for them–I love the rural Midwest.

Later that year, Greensburg, which prior to the deadly twister was best known as the site of the world’s largest hand-dug well, made the decision to rebuild as a green energy town.

When the tornado hit, Greensburg, the seat of Kiowa County, had about 1,500 residents. According to the the US Census Bureau, only 777 people lived in Greensburg in 2010.

A week ago the Kansas City Star published a story with the headline, Greensburg, Kan., rebuilds from 2007 tornado — now it just needs more people.

From the Star:

International exposure, federal disaster aid and public-private partnerships gave rise to some of the greenest and most visually arresting public facilities of any city 100 times Greenburg’s size.

They included a $30 million hospital sporting angled, exterior walls and a new K-12 school campus that uses 55 percent less water than the destroyed one.

A whirring flock of wind turbines provides enough energy to the electric grid over the year to power every house, business and municipal building in Greensburg.

Patrons of the Bar H Tavern on U.S. 54 worry, though, that a community of 800 won’t be able to afford the maintenance on those turbines and the school’s dual-flush toilets. “Not everyone agrees with all this green stuff,” one local said. “What we really need is more people.”

So despite the many expensive platinum-level LEED buildings and the ten wind-turbine surrounding the town, “this green stuff” didn’t work out. Okay, that may be a cheap shot, since Great Plains towns such as Greensburg have been hemorrhaging people, believe it or not, since the end of the First World War. So Greensburg’s population almost certainly would have continued its slide had the tornado not hit.

Greensburg flags
Greensburg, late July, 2007

Cheap housing was one of Greensburg drawing cards, but home prices, although there is not a municipal requirement to build green, have more than doubled there since 2007. In most parts of America, home prices have plummeted since then.

Think about that.

Greensburg had hoped to lure green industry firms to the Plains, including solar-panel manufacturers, but officials are blaming the continuing languid economy for their absence.

I have another explanation: Perhaps green construction and renewable energy are a blind alley, at least in the short term. Maybe it will be that way forever. Sure, the wind turbines supply enough energy for a town with fewer than a thousand residents, but could the unreliable, unpredictable, and expensive power source work for nearby Dodge City?

What about Kansas City?

While I certainly give Greensburg credit for trying something new to end to the exodus from its corner of the Plains, perhaps it’s time for it to reverse course.

Or they can look forward to a time when the green movement is an historic curiosity, along the lines of the world’s largest hand-dug well, and then transform Greensburg into an environmentalist reenactment community–something like Colonial Williamsburg.

John ruberryJohn Ruberry blogs at Marathon Pundit.

****************************************************

Olimometer 2.52

It’s sunday and normally I would be pitching for this weeks $365 goal.

But right now it’s also March 30th. The Mortgage is due tomorrow. After a successful first year February was our worst month on record and March is about to outdo it.

As of yesterday when I hit the sack we were $797 of the mortgage.

To put that into perspective we could meet our weekly goal today AND match it tomorrow and still be about $70 short.

With God all things are possible but without your help it’s going to take a miracle to keep the bills paid around here.

I ask you to give that help and hit DaTipJar below.

 

If 61 of you hit Subscribe at $20 a month subscribers this site will be able to cover its bills for a full year and things will be a lot more like Alito and Kagan around here than Kennedy & Roberts reliable..