Several hundred grade school children braved the falling snow to gather at the state capitol with Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupsi on Thursday. As lawmakers and lobbyists looked on, the excited group of kids waived signs and demanding that lawmakers do more to clean up the air along the Wasatch Front.
"Pollution is like a monster, it breaks things down," one student told the assembled crowd of preteens. Other students chanted "young lungs matter," and "clean air now!" The rally was organized by the students at the Madeliene Choir School, and they were joined by students from the Salt Lake Arts Academy, Bonneville Elementary, and others.
"These students created this rally to push legislators to run legislation to help clean up our air," Biskupsi told City Weekly.
"The kids here are all very excited, they marched up the hill on State Street to make their point, even in bad weather, that we've got to do something more than what we're doing today. Our bad air days effect our kids more than they effect adults, so it is critical that we hear their voices."
Other speakers at the rally included Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Salt Lake City, co-chair of the Clean Air Caucus, and representatives from the local environmental group HEAL Utah.
"We're teaching our students how laws are made, and how the constitution works for them," said Jill Baillie, principal of the Madeliene Choir School. Baillie says that as a Catholic school, they are following the lead of Pope Francis who has been very outspoken about the need for more sustainable environmental protections.
Biskupski says she is hoping in particular to see two issues pass through the legislature this year. "[Lawmakers] are trying to front-load incentives to get tier-3 fuel online quicker, which would be hugely helpful because cars are our biggest problem," she said. "I would also really like to see our building codes get amended so that we can get our buildings up to code. When these new buildings go up, if they're not up to code we lose efficiency for years and years to come."