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Red-State Town Follows ‘Green’ Strategy to Rebuild

Bob Dixson is exactly the sort of local official the White House wants to hear from on climate preparedness.

The mayor of Greensburg, Kan., oversaw the complete reconstruction of his community using “green” concepts after a 2007 tornado flattened the town, a decision that he described as a recognition of the conservation values passed down by ancestral prairie inhabitants.

A member of the newly created Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, Dixson is also a Republican — few of whom are engaged at the federal level in discussions about adapting to a changing climate.

“Our environment and how we take care of it for future generations has nothing to do with coming from a red state or a blue state, or if you have an R or a D behind your name,” he said.

Greensburg’s transformation to a town powered exclusively by the wind and boasting the most Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified energy-efficient buildings per capita in the country was not foremost about climate concerns, Dixson said. Rather, the strategy was pursued to help ensure that money invested in rebuilding would provide lasting benefits to future generations.

“True sustainability is not just environmental sustainability,” Dixson said. “It has to be business and economic sustainability, plus it has to be financially sustainable.”

Greensburg hosted an array of state and federal officials after the tornado to provide logistical and financial help in rebuilding, Dixson said. Based on that experience, he said, it’s critical for government agencies to communicate with each other so that each is familiar with the many federal programs available to local governments trying to make resiliency investments.

Local government actions to adapt to climate change will be at the forefront of the U.S. response, Dixson said, because they’re less likely to be affected by the politicking seen at the national level on the issue.

“It’s very tough from the top down to do those kind of things without convoluting a lot of issues,” Dixson said.

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