Speak Your Piece: Let’s Get Disaster-Wise
[imgbelt img=greensburg-on-tv510.jpg]Small towns that have survived natural disasters have learned something — something critical to surviving “ordinary” times.
Recent natural disasters across rural America — tornadoes, the late January ice storm, the wind-driven remnants of Hurricane Ike, and floods along the Upper Mississippi — offer compelling reminders of our human frailty in the face of natural events. They also prove the need for strong, resilient human communities.
Disasters tend to draw people together. Residents of small towns and people spread out across the rural landscape work together because of shared, immediate needs. They know that because of their relative isolation and limited resources, it may take time before significant help arrives. So they take matters into their own hands: opening roadways, checking on neighbors, and doing whatever else needs to be done.
Immediately after a disaster, strong people face the crisis, working together to make sure life goes on. But once things get back to normal, folks usually go back to their everyday patterns. Working independently, crossing paths at the coffee shop, football game, or a meeting of the Lions Club, they resume individual lives in a community setting.
In the long run, a culture of individualists is particularly troublesome in rural areas, where people need to work together to save their towns and themselves. Disengagement stagnates rural communities and can even bring about their demise. In fact, the inability or unwillingness of people to work together has triggered a quiet, but ongoing disaster. It is true that urban areas often hold appeal for rural youth. It is also true that in the current economy, there’s little incentive for people to stay in rural areas. But what about the people who have remained? Are they powerless in the face of major changes, both interior changes and forces generated outside their towns? Or, are people the most significant and underused resource that a community has to create new opportunities?
[imgcontainer left] [img:greensburg-fore-aft-360.jpg] [source]Green Building Elements
Greensburg, Kansas, destroyed by a tornado in 2007 (left), now
rebuilding as a model city of energy efficiency (right)
• By now, most people know about Greensburg, Kansas, as they should. The small town was destroyed May 4, 2007 by a tornado. Afterward, the city counciil voted to rebuild Greensburg as a model of energy efficiency. With the guidance and leadership of GreenTown, a community-owned organization, Greensburg is on its way to fulfilling that goal. The grassroots group is working “side-by-side with city and county officials, business owners and local residents to incorporate sustainable principles into their rebuilding process.”
• Clarksville, Missouri, overcame flooding in the early 1990s and
again last year to take advantage of its Mississippi River vantage
point between St. Louis and Hannibal. The town, whose population peaked
in the late 1800s, now has about 500 residents and is slowly gaining
population again. Residents
are working together to promote nature tourism along the river, including
eagle watching. As well, artists, potters, glass blowers, jewelry
designers, antique dealers, furniture makers, and specialty craftsmen
are adding to the local economy.
[imgcontainer left] [img:family-night-in-mo360.jpg] [source]62644Family Appreciation Night, in Havana, Illinois — first celebrated after the 7th grade girls basketball team won the state championship