One of the small silver linings of natural disasters that destroy communities is that their residents have a clean slate when they start to rebuild. Daniel Wallach works to help them rebuild with a sustainable future in mind.
Wallach is leading a workshop Tuesday in Oklahoma City on sustainable disaster recovery using the knowledge he's learned in Greensburg, Kan., and Joplin, Mo., in helping to rebuild those communities. Wallach hopes city and state residents will use the same techniques used there the next time a tornado hits locally.
“We all experience adversity at the micro level and at the macro level,” Wallach said. “If we can tap the resources latent within that adversity, then we grow, and we're much better off for it.”
Wallach started Greensburg GreenTown, a nonprofit group, after a tornado ravaged the town five years ago. He started GreenTown Joplin after the tornado there last year.
He and Catherine Hart live outside of Greensburg, and quickly began plans after the tornado hit that eventually turned into GreenTown. The group has helped rebuild everything from homes to businesses and the local courthouse and hospital with conservative and efficient use of resources in mind.
“This is a community that embraced a very progressive position in a very politically conservative place,” Wallach said. “It showed that people in this part of the country are very forward-thinking (and) experienced with innovation and overcoming adversity. ... It's probably the most cutting-edge little town in the country.”
GreenTown expanded to Joplin after the devastating tornado there. The use of alternative energy sources like wind and solar power, even on a scale as small as an individual building, is among GreenTown's hallmark projects.
The workshop is the latest in a series hosted at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City and organized by the city's Sustainability Office to promote sustainable initiatives in the metro. The workshops are funded by federal grants.