Air Quality is a Moral Issue
In the Jan 31st Tribune article, “Is Utah’s Air Pollution A Moral Issue?” an LDS Church spokesperson affirmed “…the church teaches that all humankind are stewards over Earth…”
The leadership of the Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance (MESA) wishes to emphasize that the very concept of stewardship implies a moral imperative to care for Creation – for its own sake as well as for the sake of humankind. Brigham Young emphasized the sacred nature of the earth itself: “Speaking of the elements and the creation of God, in their nature they are as pure as the heavens.” Stewardship isn’t just a matter of not cutting down all the trees in the forest at once; it’s that in our use of the forest, it remains healthy habitat for all that dwell in it, and is preserved for future generations.
The air pollution in Utah’s valleys is a moral issue because it hurts innocent people, our children, our families, our ecology and our economy. But it is also a byproduct of a way of living that threatens the very health of our planet. “As beneficiaries of the divine Creation, we should care for the earth, be wise stewards over it, and preserve it for future generations,” says Apostle Russell M. Nelson. Because we know this and have intelligence and free agency, we can design and choose a better course. Our faith drives us to do so. And quickly!
Most of our air pollution comes from combustion of fossil fuels. Therefore, our local challenge must be seen in conjunction with a global imperative to phase out fossil fuels. The world economy must transition to cleaner renewable energy as quickly as possible to avoid climate change so extreme that, in combination with habitat destruction and pollution, it threatens the very habitability of our planet for all living creatures. We must use fresh water sustainably, maximize re-use of raw materials, reverse deforestation, protect species and ecosystems, and much more!
What does this mean for Utah? Let’s not get stuck in a tar pit. It is morally and economically irresponsible to stake our future on energy sources and technologies that must quickly be phased out world-wide to preserve the habitability of our planet. Developing ever more fossil fuel resources cannot therefore be a basis of Utah’s future prosperity. The longer we delay transitioning to cleaner, renewable forms of energy, the greater the havoc on our own environment and economy
Fortunately, our state is endowed with abundant resources in renewable energy: solar, geothermal and wind. Wind and solar are so easily accessed they can be produced efficiently on small scales. They will enhance the prosperity and health of individual households and farms.
Utah has rich agricultural land. Locally grown fresh produce and other agricultural products should be preferred to exports and highly processed foods. Urban communal gardens, back yard gardens and farmer’s markets must become more common.
Our state also has some of the most spectacular and awe-inspiring wild lands on Earth. They are Utah’s greatest natural gift and will be an economic mainstay long into the future. It would be unwise to degrade them to prolong economic structures and a way of life that makes visiting Utah, or living and working here, unattractive.
Let’s not trade our inheritance for a mess of pottage. We can build upon long-established traditions of enterprise and cooperation to truly become the place that Brigham Young envisioned. In doing so, our ‘lovely Deseret’ could once again set an example for others on living well in harmony with Earth.
The Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance (MESA) is a non-profit faith-oriented organizationopen to all who support our mission (http://www.mesastewardship.org/).