On November 7-8, Greensburg GreenTown and the City of Greensburg welcomed a delegation from Japan interested in building with clean energy and technologies. Our guests were primarily from the Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures, which are two regions of Japan severely impacted by Japan’s devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami. They shared with us heart-wrenching pictures of the destruction in their regions. One of the visitors lost his wife, the mother of his five children, in the disaster. Needless to say, we at GreenTown and many other Greensburg residents were eager to help them get back on their feet by sharing our “living laboratory” with them.
Before their time in Greensburg, the delegation spent two days in Denver and Golden, Colorado touring the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). NREL was a key partner in getting our community on the right track, post-tornado, in terms of employing energy efficiency strategies from projects as small as individual homes to that as large as the wind farm that powers the community.
In Greensburg the visitors were able to see the implementation of green building technologies, after which they flew back to Japan. During their two days in Greensburg, the entire crew - eight visitors from Japan, three interpreters from the US State Department, a representative from NREL, plus GreenTown staff - toured all over town. They visited The Big Well, the 5.4.7 Arts Center, GreenTown’s Silo Eco-Home, City Hall, Kiowa County Schools, Kiowa County Memorial Hospital, the Greensburg Wind Farm, Bucklin Tractor & Implement Company, and the Gamble family’s home. Greensburg residents including Bob and Ann Dixson, Steve and Judi Kirk, and Darin and Kathy Headrick generously hosted the delegation for dinner on the night of November 7.
Despite the packed schedule and in-depth information the delegation received during their time in Greensburg, they remained enthused, impressed, and inquisitive throughout their visit. They were especially impressed with the technology in the school, emitting many "oohs" and "ahs" when physics teacher Sherrie Schnoebelen demonstrated the use of remotes in her classroom. The group was also exceedingly gracious, presenting gifts to many of their tour guides and hosts. I for one received a beautiful mouse pad, miso soup, and a small figurine. I think they took hope home with them, as well as many ideas for a successful rebuild. Some of their kind words will also be sent to the Sandy-affected regions of the Northeast as part of Stars of Hope project, thanks to Greensburg resident Matt Deighton. Some of the stars that the Japanese delegation wrote translate to, “Don’t give up!” and “We’re with you!” Their readiness to be involved speaks to the solidarity that disaster-affected areas feel toward one another. Paying it forward by sharing the knowledge of our rebuild keeps Greensburg’s incredible green rebuild current. While disaster is, unfortunately, inevitable, this visit showed me that it is possible to unite across language and oceanic barriers to help each other and share encouragement as well as knowledge. And united, we can weather any storm.