Letter: High time to achieve a cleaner, more resilient, more equitable and more productive way of life

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The California and Oregon fires are carried into the state by the jet stream as smoke fills the Salt Lake Valley obscuring the sky on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021.

On a recent day, it was sunny, not too hot, and the sky showed blue. How unusual, given what we’ve been through! A good moment to take a deep breath and reflect.

On Aug. 6 I really had a shock. The sky was dark, with smoke across the valley. I couldn’t see the mountains to the west, and I could hardly see the sun. I walked outside that afternoon and nearly choked. The next day this paper shared that we’d had the worst air in the world right here.

Most pollution on Aug. 6 came from the Dixie Fire in northern California. Extended drought, a warming climate, and likely a lightning strike combined to touch it off. Sadly it’s still burning — nearly a million acres torched — but now nearly contained.

The whole West shares that warming climate and a widespread, historic drought. So take another breath. That fire could easily have started here.

I’m grateful for some clear discussion in these pages about our fragile watersheds, about the harm done by burning fossil fuels both here and globally, about impacted fragile ecosystems and communities downwind, and about well-connected business interests that seek short-term profits from toxic, waning industries like oil and coal.

Now I hope you’ll help us take a further step: to open serious discussion, with wide participation, to map out, organize, and help achieve a cleaner, more resilient, more equitable, and more productive way of life. It isn’t just a slogan that we need to build back better. There’s a lot we need to straighten out.

It’s so unusual, here, to take a breath of fresh air now. It’s been so fleeting. Please help us to enjoy more days like this.

Bob Speiser, Salt Lake City

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