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(Alan Behr/MCT) A view of the Wasatch mountain range from Deer Valley Ski Resort.

Last year the EPA reported record air pollution along the Wasatch Front. Air pollution poses a dire health risk to people with asthma and other breathing conditions, degrades the general health of the population and threatens the balance of the environment. Nonetheless, the trend of air pollution continues to climb.

Finding a solution to our emission of pollutants has been stymied by political arguments and debates. This solution will require a bridge between parties, philosophies and lifestyles that does not drag the local population into a fruitless debate about climate change.

The general health of our population is one of those areas where we might find that common ground. No one wants to see their children struggle with asthma. No one wants to be breathing toxic air that may eventually lead to cancer.

We might also relate on our enjoyment of the beautiful Utah landscape. No matter your politics it’s hard to deny how lucky we are to call this state our home.

We have become accustomed to sunsets over the mountaintops, plateaus of sandstone, hills alive with autumn colors and the joy of seeing all of this reflected off of the surface of the Great Salt Lake.

When I wake up in the morning, I get my cup of coffee and my paper. I sit on the steps of my apartment building and I am filled with awe looking up to Malan’s Peak and Mt. Ogden.

I am swept away by the majesty of the natural world, a force that has called to the great minds of American literature and to the minds of all people who call this land home. During these quiet moments, I run through their names: Whitman, Thoreau, Emerson, Dickinson and Kerouac. The list goes on and on.

As Utahans we have an obligation to be good stewards of our state and of our Earth. We must cherish and protect this place. We have the privilege of enjoying its natural beauty, but must acknowledge that its maintenance hangs in a fragile balance.

Protecting the environment requires sacrifice and it requires action. It is not enough to say that we love the Earth. We must also reduce our negative impact upon it. Our personal action and the action of our legislature are necessary to make a difference.

In Utah, our dependence on cars has reached new heights. Commuting is very common and distances between our homes and jobs are significant. All of this driving has contributed heavily to our air problems. As a result we must search for alternatives that reduce this pollution.

Using public transportation, carpooling or riding a bike will improve our air and protect people from these growing health problems. Large transportation companies also have an obligation to ensure that their fares are affordable and that their routes are accessible, so that all people can use their services.

Utah also has a history of industries leaving negative impacts on the environment. We must ensure that these industries are doing everything in their power to avoid excess air pollution, even if this means having to spend more money or limit production on days our air quality is low.

These are the sacrifices that we must make to protect our state, and now is the time to make them.

Some days the mountains rise above rooftops, crystal clear to the tips of their pine trees. Some days they loom from a residue of toxic haze. I love clear days when the stars stream down at night and the features of the mountainside seem closer than ever. I am an Utahan. You are a Utahan. Beyond our differences and beyond our politics, this is an issue that we can and must work towards.

To quote President Theodore Roosevelt, “Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”

More information regarding air quality can be found at www.epa.gov/airdata.

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