Last night I was glued to the television watching the suffering the people of Bangladesh are enduring after tropical cyclone Sidr devastated the southerncoast with 155-mph (250-km/h) winds, causing a 16-foot (5-m) tidal wave. Atpress time, more than 3,100 people had lost their lives and about 1,100 peoplestill were missing. Nearly 3 million people were evacuated from low-lying areasbefore the storm hit and now many are without homes, food, clothing and evenfamily members. A relief worker described the scene as a “valley of death.”
You’re reading this column two months after Sidr struck Bangladesh, and the event has long since been replaced in the news, possibly by another extremeweather event. It seems the weather has become a headline more frequently, and I can’t help but wonder when and where the next “perfect storm” may strike. The U.S. is not exempt from Mother Nature’s fury. We learned this when the Gulf Coast was struck by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 and Greensburg, Kan., was decimated by a tornado in May 2007.
Last July, several members of eco-structure’s staff and I had the opportunity to participate in a service project in New Orleans’ devastated Ninth Ward. (Read about how New Orleans is incorporating environmental initiatives into its restoration in the “special,” page 46.) The sense of gratification we got from that project made us wonder what else we could do to help communities recovering from natural disasters.
When Greensburg’s local leaders announced the town would be rebuilt in a sustainable manner, I believed it was important eco-structurebe involved. I met Sheila Samuelson, who wrote the “special” about Greensburg’s
sustainable recovery on page 42, nearly three years ago. Through her, I was introduced to Daniel Wallach, director of GreensburgGreenTown, a nonprofit that provides Greensburg residents with the resources, information and support they need to rebuild their town as a model green community. With Wallach’s guidance, eco-structurehas partnered with Dan Chiras, author ofSuperbia: 31 Ways to Create Sustainable Neighborhoods, to build one of 12 model green homes that will serve as bed and breakfasts in the community.Learn more about how you can participate with eco-structureand Chiras by reading “A Notable Cause,” page 45.
It’s impossible to discuss these extreme weather events without mentioningthat fingers are being pointed at human-induced global warming. Althoughthe U.S. government has shown its support for green buildings, as illustrated in the “feature” about Wayne L. Morse United States Courthouse, Eugene, Ore., page 24, and “ecommercial” about the San Francisco Federal Building, page 32, our legislators still must do more. The recent United Nations Conference on Climate Change called for the world’s biggest polluters, China and the U.S., to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions. I don’t think it was a coincidence that the conference was held in Bali. Thailand lies just southeast of Bali; in December 2004 a tsunami killed approximately 11,000 people in Thailand.
Hopefully our world’s leaders will take drastic measures against human-induced global warming in hopes of preventing future catastrophic events. Until then, you and I must continue to rebuild greener communities from the rubble of other perfect storms. I urge you to donate your time,expertise or materials to these efforts.