COVID-19 has been the focal point of conversations recently, but what about air pollution? At the University of Utah, we created an air pollution problems-solutions list. We recognized several issues exacerbated by air pollution, like COVID-19 symptoms or asthma attacks, and then identified solutions to these issues.
Taking part in this activity made it clear that we simply do not care about things that we really should. For example, we could tear down useless parking lots in lower-class neighborhoods (that frequently have worse air quality) and create parks that give children a place to play and improve air quality by reducing street-level particulates. Or we could use apps and devices that can track air pollution and put together a “pollution map” that provides asthma patients and others with information on areas that have especially bad air so they can receive extra attention. Both resolutions have potential, but they share one crucial requirement that people simply cannot seem to do: care.
In addition to our problems-solutions lists, we created a 1-10 scale for implementation for each solution. Neither of the above resolutions scored highly on implementation. This isn’t because they are drastically unrealistic; it is because not enough people care. This is why community involvement is crucial. Our air quality depends on more fortunate people in upper-class neighborhoods doing their part by utilizing their money and political power to better the air in ways our lower-class communities cannot. Taking public transit only does so much when those who live in neighborhoods above the smog feel they are exempt from this battle. It is up to all of us to force change and prevent future generations from growing up in smog. Donate to foundations like UCAIR and participate in challenges like Utah’s “Clean the Air Challenge.”
Anya Biskupiak, Salt Lake City