SALT LAKE CITY — "Dashing through the snow, in a great big SUV, spewing CO2 and laughing greedily."
Those were some of the special Utah- and inversion-themed lyrics sung by a group of carolers Thursday at Library Square.
The roughly two-dozen carolers, representing Utah Moms for Clean Air, Clean Air Now, Salt Lake Troubadours of Revolutionary Musical Merriment and others, sang several tweaked versions of traditional Christmas songs, calling on Gov. Gary Herbert and the Utah Legislature to take steps to curb air pollution.
On the set list was "Smog to the World," "All I Want for Christmas is Some Nice Clean Air" and a version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" that included leaking tankers, poisoned rivers, polluted national parks and a clear-cut forest of trees.
"We want to do this again every year because it’s a great fun way to get people engaged," said Cherise Udell, founder of Utah Moms For Clean Air. "It’s highlighting the inadequacies of our elected officials in dealing with our pollution problem, but in a fun way."
Udell, who began Utah Moms For Clean Air seven years ago, said she's seen a growing awareness among the public regarding the dangers of air pollution. She said that when she's out and about during the inversion, she hears conversations about the air quality, which is not something that used to happen.
"Before, people just thought it was ugly," she said. "Now, the majority of Utahns are aware that this air is highly toxic."
Udell said state and industry officials often point to the steps that have been taken over the years to address air pollution. She praised those actions, such as Kennecott Utah Copper's Idle Reduction Program, but said more effort is necessary.
Part of the urgency, Udell said, is that the elderly and children like her own 7-year-old daughter are susceptible to pollutants and don't have the time to wait decades for a significant change in air quality.
"She was born here, and she’s had toxic exposure," Udell said of her daughter. "I don’t have 40 years to wait. The moms don’t have decades to wait. We want change now."
Last week, a survey released by Envision Utah found that nearly all residents along the Wasatch Front are concerned with bad air.
Envision Utah polled 500 residents from the greater Wasatch area, as well as Cache, Tooele and Box Elder counties. Air quality was listed as the top issue interfering with the quality of life, and roughly 99 percent of participants indicated a willingness to change behavior to reduce pollution.
"I think the public is finally understanding the seriousness of the issue, and much of the state leadership are now playing catchup," Dr. Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, said at the time the survey was released.
Carl Ingwell of Clean Air Now participated in the carol singing and said individual Utahns are doing their part to curb pollution, but it's time for the state and industry to pitch in as well. Ingwell said he would like to see refinery expansions halted and a greater investment in a public transit system.
Drivers receive a lot of messages about bad air and encouragement to carpool, he said, but they don't have many options to truly cut down on their commute.
"We all want to clean our air, but we need the infrastructure to do so," Ingwell said. "We need a better public transit system and more effective solutions for people to be able to drive less."
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