By Mads Jensen
Hundreds of Utah residents, including BYU students and politicians, gathered at the steps of the Capitol for what has become an annual “Clean Air, No Excuses” rally Saturday, Jan. 31.
Organizers said the event was not to blame legislators for the air quality but to encourage citizens to take matters into their own hands by not idling, driving cleaner cars, and using mass transit.
“Like many of the speakers have said, the science is solid. Air pollution is unhealthy in any amount,” said BYU student Ivy Gines. “I don’t only breathe the air. I see it, I taste it.”
Singing renditions of popular rock anthems, the Smog Lake City Singers entertained the masses with their environmental spins on songs such as Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” The Smog Lake City Singers come together for activist rallies, singing songs that focus on the environment. Members of the band perform in other groups as well, as is the case with Rebecca Heal and her group the Saliva Sisters.
“We’re just a bunch of committed activists that got together and thought this is how we could help,” Heal said. “We’ve all known each other for a while from the music scene, environmental rallies, and the First Unitarian Church.”
Air quality and winter inversion have been a concern for Wasatch Front residents for decades. Air pollution remains one of the most severe environmental issues, causing throat, lung and respiratory damage.
Composer Kurt Bestor, a rally speaker, shared a story of driving his six-year-old daughter, Ella, to school. After commenting on the fog, Bestor’s daughter said it was pollution, and that pollution meant no recess. Children are at high risk, as they breathe more rapidly than adults in regard to body weight. Many kids were present at the rally, supporting the cause along with their parents.
Derek Kitchen, a plaintiff who sued Utah over the issue of same-sex marriage, encouraged people to write their representatives about air quality year-round. He believes that the health and economic benefits of legislation will far outweigh the cost of doing so.
“Having a healthy, livable environment is a human right,” Kitchen said. “Representatives are morally obligated to address this issue and protect our freedom to breathe clean air.”