I moved to Salt Lake City because of its assets: it offers incredible outdoor lifestyle opportunities, beauty in close proximity to the city, and excellent local restaurants, pubs and bars.
I earn my living as a pedicabber (rickshaw bicycle rider), and in so doing, I am constantly exposed to the elements of nature. The extremely poor air quality in Salt Lake City, especially in the winter saddens me. Not only is it hard to breathe, but it is truly sad how harmful the consequences of breathing the air can be for our long-term health.
On bad air days I avoid going downtown. I need to work downtown so it affects my income, and I can’t earn money when the air is bad. I must choose my health over income. On red air days I can feel a stinging in my lungs. I have asthma and it is always worse on red air days. I fatigue faster, it is harder to breathe, and the smell is terrible. It is difficult to take a full breath and when I take a deep breath I can feel the toxic air entering my lungs. If I need to ride downtown, I wear a surgical mask or cover my nose and mouth as I drive around the city.
It’s sad that the majority of the population (and political leaders) don’t recognize the amount of damage our addiction to fossil fuels is causing to our valley, and ultimately to our planet. I understand that most of us are dependent on fossil fuels for commuting, heat and electricity, but we must strive to support alternatives.
We can start by being more conscious. Simple actions we can take today can produce a ripple effect. Instead of driving your car to work, ride TRAX, or commute by bike. One of the greatest assets of Salt Lake City is the amazing bicycle lanes and trails that stretch for miles.
Fossil fuels aren’t the only means of harnessing energy, with the health and environmental consequences taken into account, society must realize fossil fuels are not “sustainable”. Harnessing energy from the sun or wind are truly sustainable. The more focus we put on alternative, sustainable options in our own lives, the bigger the ripple effect. Ultimately, I have high hopes that things are moving in the right direction, and that more and more people are waking up and taking action.
Without clean air, we are slowly destroying ourselves and generations yet to come. With great potential comes great responsibility, and that responsibility is ours.