“We can’t solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”, Albert Einstein
This is the extraordinary tale of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin, a village of 500 that was located along the meanders of the Kickapoo River to allow timber rafting and to get hydropower for its lumber mills. Proximity to the water was a mixed blessing. Situated at the bottom of a bowl surrounded by mountains, the town was prone to flooding. The small floods they called “ankle ticklers” but once a decade a major one would be devastating. The courageous and stubborn residents would clean up and rebuild.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, Albert Einstein
With time, the floods got worse for reasons that were largely self-inflicted. Deforestation of surrounding hills reduced the amount of water retained by the soil and the runoff caused erosion that filled the bottom of the river aggravating the floods. After studying the problem for three decades a $3.5 million dam and levee was proposed… to protect $1 million worth of property… In a rare moment of genius someone asked “what if we moved the town?” and the rest is history. In 1979, the town relocated to higher grounds 800 meters away.
The river still floods but the town has been spared and the people of Soldiers Grove have more time (and money) to come up with more brilliant ideas like becoming the first Solar Town in America.
Bill Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP), is one of the humble architects behind the move of Soldiers Grove. Here is his TED version of the story:
Soldiers Grove Solar Town
About Bill Becker
Free Online Course on Natural Disasters