Letter: If we can’t solve our air quality problem now, how will we do it in the future?

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Poor air quality obscures the Oquirrh Mountains and downtown Salt Lake City, as seen from the University of Utah on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.

I grew up in Utah. Each year, I watched the fall transition into a cold flurry of wintertime normalcy, when temperatures fell and snowstorms kept me from going out on Halloween. I’m only 21, but those childhood memories feel like a lifetime ago.

Things have changed. For Christ’s sake, it’s 55 degrees on Dec. 1 and we’re in the grip of the worst drought our state has ever seen.

I’m not a meteorologist, nor am I a climatologist. I’m a Utahn who is disturbed by our rapidly transforming ecosystem, worsening drought, and dwindling Great Salt Lake. As our climate warms, we all become more vulnerable to toxic air quality. More summer wildfires means more smoke in our skies, and a dried out lakebed means toxic dust will be blown into our communities.

Panicking is a natural response, but it is not a solution. Utah’s climatic outlook may be bleak, but ignoring environmental dilemmas does not make them go away. Even in our ultra-conservative and chronically gerrymandered state, there is always room for action. Our air quality is deeply intertwined with our community health, and that is not something that I’m ready to give up on. Organizations like HEAL Utah and the Citizens Climate Lobby are dedicated to safeguarding Utah’s ecosystems, building climate resilience, and fighting for cleaner air. If we want to preserve our community’s health, we better all follow their lead.

Drew McNulty, Salt Lake City

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