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Robert Fraga taught math over a period of twenty years in Egypt, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. Later he taught at Ripon College in Wisconsin and Baker University in Kansas. His two books on mathematics are entitled `Calculus for a New Century' and `War Stories from Applied Math.' He and his wife, Jean Grant, parents of two grown children, split the year between Lawrence, Kansas, and the Dordogne region of France.
On May 2007, an EF5 (the most powerful) tornado completely destroyed the town of Greensburg, Kansas. At the time, the population was between 1,000 and 1,500 people. Like so many rural communities, it was slowly dying as it had entered the death cycle of "few opportunities, so people leave, leaving even fewer opportunities ..." The first section of this book describes that night and it brings tears to your eyes to read about the harrowing experiences of the people during and after the approximately four minutes of disaster. The immediate and then short-term response is a reminder of how generous and caring Americans are to people in trouble. Many people put their lives on hold to travel to Greensburg to aid in the recovery and rebuilding and government agencies at all levels were there with aid and assistance. The long-term story is much less inspiring, containing stories of everything from high aspirations to fraud and petty bickering. Looking out over a town that had been essentially turned into waste, the leaders decided that Greensburg would be rebuilt as an extremely green city. Their goal was to recoup much of the extra building costs from contributions and eco-tourism as they expected people from all over the country and the world to be interested in what they were doing. While some of those dreams were achieved, it was not without cost in terms of money and conflict, some people in the area never bought into the idea and some of the difficulties were a consequence of the changing public perception of climate change. In November 2008, 71% of Americans believed in climate change but that percentage dropped to 52% in 2010. This broad change in public opinion makes it difficult to sustain long-term and expensive green projects.Read more ›
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I had read in the press about Greensburg's decision to rebuild on a green basis after a devastating tornado and wanted to read in more detail about how they did it. This work is highly detailed and may not hold the attention of the average reader. In Mr. Fraga's telling, it seems that Greensburg's qualified success rested heavily on a tight-knit town leadership that pre-dated the tornado. It is also interesting that this leadership was pushed aside by several stronger outside forces once re-development began. Although I should not have been surprised, the degree to which the residents' desires to re-build quickly and get on with their lives conflicted with the proposed green rebuilding plans was revealing.
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