Guest editorial: The ‘virus’ of air pollution is here, and the time to act is now
On Wednesday, May 6, you have an opportunity to join your Wasatch Back Citizens’ Climate Lobby as we host Rep. John Curtis, professor Arden Pope of BYU, and Mayors Johnson (Midway), Potter (Heber) and Kourianos (Price). We will be discussing clean air and community stewardship, focusing on local and state communities and how we manage our health at the non-federal level.
Rep. Curtis has been hosting weekly virtual town halls through the COVID-19 outbreak which have been informative and interesting. He graciously allowed CCL to host him for this town hall. We are interested in his perspective as a Republican who recently has been discussing climate issues and also appreciate his interest in one of our favorite aspects of climate care: clean air. We are also inviting professor Pope from BYU, an international expert on air pollution and its health effects, to provide us with the most accurate and up-to-date science on how to prevent and manage air pollution. Our local mayors from Wasatch County are joining us to give us their input on the local governance issues, the local health effects and how to address clean air as a community leader.
Why now? And why not talk about COVID-19? Well, we can make important comparisons between climate care and COVID-19. As we’ve learned, our management of pandemics reveals strengths and weaknesses in governmental and societal systems. Our first wave of COVID-19 in the U.S. showed impressive resilience and adaptability of people, communities and health care systems. It showed fundamental flaws in preparedness and ability to adapt at a federal level. We know that when we act early and in an effective manner once a virus like COVID-19 enters a community, we will have less death and devastation than if we act later or ineffectively. So let’s prepare. Let’s begin talking now about how air pollution is affecting our local communities and how we can prevent it from becoming more of a problem. Let’s utilize our local and state leadership to guide us forward and act before things are worse.
Secondly, climate care is very much like the COVID-19 epidemic in that we must act to create change. Action requires change and change is difficult. The stay at home order for COVID-19 was difficult. Changing our shopping and cleaning and work habits was difficult. Yet your actions the past two months dampened the curve. Your actions prevented unnecessary death and suffering. In the case of climate, we already have 1,000-2,000 unnecessary deaths per year from air pollution in Utah. The “virus” of pollution is here already. It’s time to act before we see even more unnecessary death and loss. As we’ve seen here on the Wasatch Back and on the Wasatch Front, air pollution can clear. We can have blue skies. Air pollution clears easily when we stop driving polluting vehicles. So as we build the post-COVID economy, how do we get back to work and build a new normal that doesn’t pollute like we used to? How do we create new local jobs and change our vehicles and work lives so we can steward our communities towards a healthy non-polluted future? If we think of climate issues as an approaching pandemic, we should take what we have learned from COVID-19 and apply the lessons learned.
Let’s start with a discussion with our local and state leaders who are motivated and talented and want to help all of us create a healthy future.
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Please join us May 6 at 6 p.m.: Register for the event at tinyurl.com/w27yzke or on our CCL Wasatch Back Facebook page (@CCLParkCityWasatchBack).
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