Utah’s Largest Air Pollution Protest Ever
Salt Lake City – The Smog Lake City Singers, musician Tom Bennett, and a song written by local fourth graders provided some levity and musical interludes as part of the Clean Air, No Excuses Rally on Jan. 25, 2014, at the Utah State Capitol.
The rally was organized by the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) in concert with Utah Moms for Clean Air, HEAL Utah, the Sierra Club, and the Facebook groups Utah Clean Air Now, Communities for Clean Air, and Utah CleanAir, and by the time it was over it had turned out to be the largest environmental protest in Utah State history, and the largest air-pollution-specific event in US history according to records researched by EnviroNews Utah.
So just why has the outrage surrounding Utah’s air conundrum been escalating so wildly this “red air” season? Well, the crisis has been so severe in the past several years that it has often landed prominent Utah cities in the top 5 places as America’s most air polluted cities on the EPA’s Air Quality Index. In addition, it is estimated by UPHE that at least four percent, and even as high as 17 percent, of all deaths in the state can be attributed to air pollution while lifelong citizens along the Wasatch Front have an average of two years shaved off of their life span. These deaths are due by-and-large to over-taxation of the body from repeated exposures to dangerous “red air” spikes.
This year has been no different, as a string of “red air days” through December and January has hampered Utah’s population, causing myriad health issues including but not limited to asthma attacks and lingering respiratory ailments. In fact, Utah’s air is so dangerous and deadly that similar to years past, it has landed hundreds, if not thousands of folks, in doctors’ offices and emergency rooms around the Wasatch Front. Many of these ER patients are children whose underdeveloped lungs simply cannot handle the dangerously thick levels of PM 2.5 pollution that can linger for weeks on end when Utah’s unique geography-driven temperature inversion traps the air, and the pollution in it, near the valley floor.
The Smog Lake City Singers are composed of members of different musical groups including the Saliva Sisters. They set words appropriate to the deathly serious topic at hand to popular protest era tunes like “If I had a Hammer” and “This Land Is Your Land” and led a sing along with the approximately 5,000 people who had congregated outside the Capitol.
As the crowd filled the steps in front of the Capitol Building, Bennett sang his original song “Governor, We Cannot Breathe”, a song composed specifically as a theme for the Clean Air, No Excuses Rally (see main video above).
HEAL Utah’s Lindsay Beebe led those at the rally in a version of “The Frightful Inversion.” Sung to the tune of “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”, the song was written by students at Whittier Elementary in response to having been kept inside for recess for days on end during this years inversion, because the air has been just too downright dangerous to breathe.