Commentary: Faith leaders could get something done about air quality

(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Smoke from wildfires burning across the western U.S. is worsening air conditions on the Wasatch Front, as seen in downtown Salt Lake City Wednesday, September 6, 2017.

OK, so I am upset about how all of the climate change initiatives have been ignored or pulled back by this administration. Maybe I should just worry about my own backyard — Utah.

I have lived in Utah since 1973. We moved here to ski and go to college. Cache Valley was idyllic, but even back in the 1980s, we had some inversions. When I was seven months into my pregnancy, my husband insisted we go up to Beaver Mountain to get out of the inversion and to boost my spirits. What a tonic it was.

Of course, all these years later and with all of the additional people and automobiles, inversions are worse and more frequent. We now have warnings that it is hazardous to certain groups.

Now, “bad air days” are a very recurring theme. Many days in the winter months we are asked not to drive or to burn our wood stoves. Some data indicate the air is hazardous to certain individuals or that we must keep the kids inside for recess. We can only imagine its effect on the unborn child whose mother is breathing the detrimental air each day. Who would have imagined that when we were growing up?

Recently there was a commentary in The Salt Lake Tribune by Steven Collis claiming that the LDS community cared about this topic, that it was a divine mandate. He claimed that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was vocal in being concerned about our air quality. He also claimed, “There are too few reasonable, fact-based environmental solutions in this country.”

The facts are pretty clear. We must act and act decisively to reduce our carbon emissions personally and as a state to have a positive effect. And it is doable. Collis should check out cclusa.org/energy-innovation-act or attend a meeting of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

I do not see the buy-in Collis claims. That theme does not seem to be prominent or is not getting through. I see moms driving two blocks to pick up or drop off kids at preschool or elementary school. I see multiple family members attending church less than four blocks away and each driving. I see idling all the time.

Here are my thoughts on the topic. When the LDS Church has a concern about anything in this state, it magically seems to make it happen. Take the example of Proposition 2, the medical marijuana initiative. That got turned around in record time to something more palatable to the church and thus more likely to work. I firmly believe we should have a firmer separation of church and state, and not just in our state. But this is not a religious belief or a religious issue. We all breathe the same air.

Using that analogy, imagine if the church cared as much about the environment in our once-beautiful state. Imagine if it encouraged its members to walk to Sunday services, as it is good for the air quality and good for one’s body. Or on bad air days if leaders sent out a text to please carpool or walk as the air quality does not need additional contributions of many automobiles when the trip is only a few blocks in most cases. Or your body is a temple, so give it some exercise and walk to church.

Why not invest further in the cause and put solar panels on all of the church real estate? Many have a perfect exposure to the southern or western sky to benefit from solar power, yet I have never seen an LDS Church building with solar on the roof.

Here’s a thought. Install solar because it is good for the economy. Encourage walking to Sunday services because it is good for the air and it is good for the body to exercise.

You know what — I think if the LDS faith cared about things like clean air, it would be easy to get the faithful to buy in to the concern and to stop idling cars and walk more and care more about the big picture before they get to the afterlife.

Patricia Sadoski

Patricia Sadoski, BSN, MS, is a consultant for seniors and mostly retired nurse in Cache Valley.