Like a sci-fi movie about a dystopian future where the remaining humans left on Earth live a lawless, bleak existence, Utah looked gray, cold and miserable when I returned here on Tuesday morning.
I knew that you were all living under massively depressing weather conditions when I was back east. Yet, despite being a Utahn for nearly a decade, I still can be shocked by the brutality that a winter here can hold.
And then, coming out of Sardine Canyon, the sight I knew was waiting for me stood there like a faithful pooch; Cache Valley, my home, sitting underneath a blanket of black-gray soot.
Within a day’s travel, I went from Philadelphia, the dirtiest city in America, to Logan, the city with the dirtiest air in America.
Let the Dirty Harry jokes commence.
When are we, the citizens of Cache Valley, going to pour our notorious apathy into a bottle and metaphorically fire bomb our collective city halls? How far must we go into warning pregnant women and those with respiratory problems not to leave the house before the right eyebrows are raised regarding this problem?
When does the problem become a crisis? In today’s America, everything is a crisis. And nothing compels federal intervention into infringement on individual liberty more than a crisis.
Too many fat kids in America? Crisis! Someone used a bad word in a comedy routine? Crisis! Taylor Swift broke up with another pretty boy? Crisis!
We are so used to instant commentary via social networking that none of us knows a real crisis when we are breathing it in and out of our lungs every few seconds. And for all the stories printed in the media regarding our impossibly crummy air, the elected officials in our towns not only stand idle (pun intended) on this issue, they seem to deliberately exacerbate the problem!
How, you might ask, do they make the problem worse? Residential and commercial licensing.
Do I need to quote numbers when common sense is more than enough to explain why this is an awful idea?
The more houses and apartments you build, the less they cost to obtain. The more people who move here because of cheap rent/mortgage payments, the more cars they bring with them. The more cars that are here means more exhaust fumes that spiral upward over our heads. The more people spewing exhaust fumes over our heads are more people who need jobs. The more people who need jobs means the less the jobs pay---because why pay someone more money to work when they can replaced by 15 others within an hour? The less people make at work, the more people have have to work. The more people have to work, the more they are out driving their cars with the exhaust fumes going right into our lungs.
Cache Valley has an infrastructure built with a deck of cards---and that cold, black cloud over our heads is a bowling ball crashing down onto it.
Somewhere in Logan, there is a non-descript house where the omnipotent landlords of this valley meet once a month. In this meeting, these men go over their stratagem to keep the elected officials of the county and towns in constant fear. Maybe it is compromising photographs; or a document containing information of illegal activity. It has to be something! What other reason could the various city council members of all of our towns have to bury their collective heads in the ground and do practically nothing?
The air we breathe is dangerously unhealthy. This has nothing to do with apocalyptic exaggerations about climate change. This is not a lobby for more public transit, or to force people to sell their Ford Explorers in lieu of hybrid cars. And I certainly do not want the federal government to intervene.
This is the most serious problem residents and elected officials in this valley face. A moratorium on residential building is the first step towards a solution. What’s the second step? Good question! Maybe one of the people we elect to govern us can answer it for me. If they can speak to us without coughing their lungs out.
Harry Caines contributes a weekly column to CacheValleyDaily.com. His column is a work of opinion, and does not reflect the views of Cache Valley Daily, the Cache Valley Media Group, or its employees.