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Op-ed: I’m voting for clean air and a sustainable future for Utah

Written by Austin Fashimpaur, Salt Lake Community College
Austin Fashimpaur is the current SLiCE sustainability lead at Salt Lake Community College. Austin Fashimpaur is the current SLiCE sustainability lead at Salt Lake Community College. Courtesy of SLCC Student Association

Editor’s note: This story was originally published by The Globe, Salt Lake Community College’s student-produced news site.”

When we think of climate change and air pollution, we often think of the consequences as being distant problems affecting far away people and places. Unfortunately, that is far from reality.

According to a report by Brigham Young University, air pollution shortens the life of the average Utahn by two years and costs Utah’s economy $1.8 billion annually.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the consequences of global warming will lead to less snowpack, less water and more wildfires.

A study published by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has even shown that long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with an increased risk of coronavirus death.

Every day that goes by, more Utahns are suffering the health effects of air pollution, and more of our great state, whose natural wonders are a cornerstone of our culture and heritage, are further irreparably damaged.

With such catastrophic effects on our local communities and environment, many of our state and federal leaders have unfortunately aligned themselves against much-needed reforms.

The New York Times reports that the current presidential administration has waged an all-out war on environmental regulation, with 100 total rollbacks in sectors concerning air pollution, water pollution and many more.

Meanwhile, our state government has had a mixed response with forward-thinking policies such as promoting expansion of electric vehicle charging stations, funding for developing a road map to positive solutions for the climate and air quality, and being the first conservative state to officially recognize climate change, tainted by the expansion of the controversial inland port, increase of registration fees on electric and hybrid vehicles, and a hostile attitude towards federal conservation efforts such as the Bears Ears National Monument.

We cannot allow these attacks on our environment to continue, and we can fix it by using one of our most sacred rights.

“GOVERNMENTS ARE INSTITUTED AMONG MEN, DERIVING THEIR JUST POWERS FROM THE CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED.” — THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

Voting, the way citizens give their consent of governance, is the cornerstone which our rights, and our democracy, rest. Often this right is cast aside as citizens feel like their voice is not heard. However, as reported by NPR, there have been over a dozen electoral races decided by a single vote within the last 20 years.

Many voters also feel disillusioned, convinced the system will always choose an establishment candidate, but if “did not vote” was a third-party candidate in the 2016 election, they would have swept the election with 471 of the 538 electors.

Voting is more than just numbers, it’s also about taking responsibility. When you vote, it’s your representative, your community, your air, your water. You cannot want the best for your community while being on the sidelines.

Here is what I am asking of you today: Be brave, and vote this November. Take responsibility for our community, our health and our environment and vote.

Registering to vote takes less than two minutes, and using your vote to stand up for cleaner air and a more sustainable environment will help us breathe easier and assure that the great outdoors we know and love will be around for generations to come.

Austin Fashimpaur
SLCC SLiCE Sustainability Lead

Listen to Amie Schaeffer’s interview with Austin Fashimpaur on The Globe (SLCC)

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