Letter: It is time to clean the darn air

Because current drought conditions in the Southwest are worse than any springtime in the past 21 years, the state of Utah is facing a potentially devastating wildfire season. Ultimately, this situation is a harbinger of our future of megadroughts as a result of climate change.

It’s easy to blame the fossil fuel companies that have suppressed and misrepresented the science of climate change for decades while lobbying against regulation, but that lets the rest of us off the hook. You and I have done our part to get us into this mess, and we have a responsibility to try to get us out of it.

On a personal level, I can’t blame the fossil fuel companies for my own addiction to internal combustion and jet engines. The one thing I am most afraid of is what climate change is doing to my kids’ future, yet my carbon footprint remains larger than it needs to be. I like to travel, but electric cars remain inconvenient for distances beyond a few hundred miles. Additionally, we don’t have solar panels on our house because it would require removing two large shade trees.

I have to admit that I am guilty of thinking what is the point of going full zero-carbon-footprint if the majority of people are not concerned about the climate crisis. On the single issue I care most about, I am guilty of being a contributor to what Garret Hardin referred to as The Tragedy of the Commons.

Despite all that — or perhaps because of it — I am eager to find opportunities to make a difference. That’s why I am happy to be part of the effort to reboot the Clean The Darn Air citizens ballot measure. We tried to put a measure on the 2020 ballot to place a modest tax on fossil fuels, with the revenue dedicated to reducing local air pollution, promoting rural economic development and eliminating the sales tax on food. Our grassroots effort fell short of the signature target we needed, but with the end of the pandemic in sight (hopefully!) we are gearing up to try again.

We think our proposal is a smart, pocketbook-friendly way to reduce fossil fuel use and move our state’s economy in a sustainable direction. If you agree (or if you’ve got a better idea!) please join us at DarnAir.org and help the state of Utah provide leadership both nationally and internationally. It is an opportunity for each of us to make a difference.

David Carrier, Salt Lake City

Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Utah and a co-founder if the Utah Citizens’ Counsel.

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