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Op-ed: Did I just move to 'Salt Lake Sooty'?
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I am a newcomer to Salt Lake City. A retired community health nurse, I relocated from New Hampshire, drawn to the magnificence of the Utah mountains, canyons and national parks, which are over the top!

Unfortunately, the polluted air that the human beings inhabiting Salt Lake City are breathing is also "over the top."

The level of air pollution here makes me start wondering if maybe some of those in leadership positions and owners of companies continuing to expand and add pollutants to the valley may indeed be of an alien species. As such, they apparently do not need oxygen to breathe, clean and abundant water to drink, eyes to behold the natural beauty of the Wasatch and finally do not reproduce, therefore have no worries about the impact of the environment upon their children and future generations.

I, however, am not of an alien species. I am a human being, as I presume most of those reading this are. The natural beauty and range of geological features found in Utah blow my mind. I did not move here to have bad air blow out my lungs!

The views I experience here almost daily take my breath away with awe and wonderment. I don't want my breath taken away by asthma, lung cancer and the gloomy sight of a polluted "Salt Lake Sooty".

Moving to Salt Lake City was a huge gamble and leap of faith for me, having read and listened to many reports about the inversions in the national media.

Here's why I chose to live here: Salt Lake is a vibrant city with access to the arts, culture, entertainment and unparalleled natural beauty filled with people who love the outdoors. I cannot think of another city that has all of these features in such close proximity. It appears that many people agree with that observation and that belief is what convinced me to move here.

So how can we humans become inspired to demand the changes needed before we all expire?

• First of all, look at our own personal behavior and see how it contributes towards a healthy environment (i.e. autos versus public transportation, recycling, reusing, decreasing energy use).

• Join a group that's actively working towards improving the air we breathe. There are many, such as: Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Citizens Climate Lobby, Heal Utah, Save Our Canyons, Breathe Utah, Wasatch Mountain Club, Utah Moms for Clean Air, Wasatch Backcountry Alliance, to name just a few.

• Talk to or write letters to the newspaper, family, friends, legislators, business owners and community leaders. Suggest and support specific legislation that will have meaningful impact on air quality such as a carbon tax for polluting companies, improving public transportation access and affordability and incentives for individuals/industries who implement renewable and sustainable energy projects.

Will Utah remain a national treasure that attracts those who love to ski, hike and appreciate the natural world or become a national disaster? I can envision Salt Lake becoming a model city for the nation regarding how we have chosen to deal with our air quality (yes, I'm an optimist!).

From what I have experienced thus far, Salt Lake is a city of great promise and lovely people and certainly well worth whatever it takes to heal the environment.

Beth Allen lives in Salt Lake City.

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