To successfully address the serious challenges to creation (the environment —the air, water, land and life) that we are experiencing requires substantial, effective, concerted efforts by all of us at all levels of society:  individuals, businesses, governments, our educational system, etc.  The following are the UVEF recommendations for how to address and overcome various challenges to creation.


(Please Note:  The UVEF’s Environmental Stewardship Survey (ESS) contains an extensive list of many things Utah County cities can do to care for the environment and thus be better, smarter, more responsible stewards of creation.  Each year we mail the ESS to the mayors and city managers in Utah Valley.



Challenges and Recommended Solutions


  1. 1.Inadequate, Misguided Leadership (often heavily influenced by big money interests):  To help the environment, says author and columnist, Thomas Friedman, “it is more important to change your leaders than your lightbulbs.”  The single most helpful thing we can do as citizens to improve stewardship of the environment is to elect only political representatives (lawmakers and administrators) who genuinely believe we need to responsibly care for creation and who are dedicated to making that happen.  Until that day arrives and until big money interests (which seem to define what many politicians do) are overcome, there is little hope for substantial and sufficient change that will help reverse the pressing environmental challenges we face.


  1. In addition to getting the corrupting influence of money out of politics (we need effective campaign finance reform and the overturn of the “Citizens United” SCOTUS decision), our governments and businesses need to incentivize good behaviors that respect and protect the environment.  These incentives at the governmental level should be positive (such as tax credits) coupled with negative incentives (such as taxes and penalties).


  1. 2.Public Opinion and Lack of Factual Knowledge:  Meaningful and helpful progress in changing our attitudes and behaviors affecting creation is mostly driven by public opinion.  If the public is unaware of or misinformed about the challenges facing the environment caused by our behaviors, and is not motivated to do what is needed to solve- the problem, and our leadership in government is not doing what is needed, nothing of sufficient consequence will get done to address the challenges facing creation.  A second crucial step forward is for our schools and universities to teach young people about the need for and value of caring for creation—fostering good, responsible, respectful stewardship of the earth and all it's components.  Without an informed and caring public, and informed and caring political representatives, free from the corrupting influence of big money interests, the outlook for the future, environmentally and globally speaking, is not promising.


  1. 3.
    Air Pollution:  The simple—but difficult to implement—solution to our air quality problem is for us to stop discharging pollutants into the air.  Perhaps the most helpful step in this regard is to steadily switch from a dependence on dirty fossil-fuel energy sources such as oil, gasoline, tar sands, shale oil, coal and natural gas to clean, safe, renewable sources that are free—such as the sun, wind and tides.  Will this be easy and cheap?  No.  Is it necessary and the responsible, smart, and even the moral thing to do?  Yes.  Electing a government that will make this happen is the quickest way to make the switch.  Governments at all levels can and should make and enforce policies to stop or greatly limit the harmful stuff we discharge into the air.


  1. 4. Climate Change and a Warming Planet:  Our changing climate, warmed by heat-trapping gases (largely caused by our burning dirty, harmful fossil fuels), will become an increasingly serious problem for the entire planet as well as for arid and snow-dependent Utah.  Melting glaciers and polar regions, rising sea levels, displaced populations, ocean acidification and deoxification, habitat destruction, species die-offs, disease and insect migrations, increasingly severe weather events, wildfires, droughts and dust storms are some of the adverse effects attributed to the changing climate and warming planet that have already begun.  Again, a robust effort switching to clean, safe, renewable sources of energy and stopping other sources of climate-changing, heat-trapping gases such as methane are needed to help mitigate the very harmful and costly adverse effects of climate change.


  1. 5. Energy Issues:  Generation, Consumption, Conservation, Efficiency and Pollution:  The energy we generate, use and waste is very much related to our air quality.  As a species, we are heavily dependent on burning dirty, harmful, fossil fuels that cause significant damage to humans and the planet.  The cost of this damage unfortunately is not included in the price of that energy.  How much would it cost to return the oceans, lakes and rivers of the world, and the planet’s air, atmosphere, climate and land to a healthy state?  Many trillions of dollars.  And how much energy do Americans use and waste?  The quantity is huge and growing.  The average American uses and wastes about twice as much energy as the average European while we enjoy a no higher standard of living.  Again, the prime and simple—but certainly not cheap—solution to our dirty energy/air quality problem is to switch to energy sources that are clean, safe, abundant, infinitely renewable and will never go up in cost—because they are free.  The sun, the wind, the tides are free.  Also, our energy providers should implement tiered rate structures to encourage conservation and efficiency while discouraging waste.  And by installing solar energy generating panels on our homes and workplaces we can increase our energy freedom and independence by producing our own clean energy without being overly reliant on the ever increasing costs of centrally-produced, harmful, fossil-fuel-based electricity.  A relatively quick and effective way to facilitate the switch from dirty energy to clean energy is to make dirty energy more expensive than clean energy.  A legislated tax on carbon could do that quickly and effectively.  A legislative mandate for utility companies to phase out coal and fossil fuels and switch to solar and wind would be very helpful.


  1. 6. Transportation:  In addition to switching energy sources for vehicles from harmful fossil fuels to clean renewables, we need to make our cities substantially less friendly to polluting vehicles and more friendly to public transit, bicycles, pedestrians and zero emission vehicles.  Public transit should be made fast, convenient and inexpensive or free (tax subsidized).  That would be an investment in clean air, saving energy and improving health.  Public funding should be directed to make this happen instead of building more freeways that encourage pollution, urban sprawl and land abuse.  Cities should lower speed limits and make parking less available and more expensive.  Some parking lots should be converted to community gardens and green spaces.  Some streets should be converted to chiefly bike use, and some street blocks should be converted to pedestrian malls.  Urban car-free zones should be implemented.  Governments and developers should offer incentives for people to live close to transit hubs, jobs, shopping, schools and necessities rather than fostering low-density sprawl.  That’s called “Smart Growth.”  Governments should tax harmful fossil fuels and fossil-fuel vehicles while offering rebates, tax credits and other incentives for practices that help make creation healthier.


  1. 7. Water Use and Conservation:  In Utah County we live in a semi-arid climate.  Water should be seen for what it is: a precious and limited commodity to be treated and priced accordingly.  An appropriately tiered price on water will incentivize its conservation and efficient use.  Large consumers of water should pay more per unit than small users.  Farmers (the largest consumers of water) should pay much more for the water they use and pass that cost on to consumers.  This in turn may help curb agricultural practices that waste water (e.g. flooding fields of water intensive crops) and also help reduce the typical American family’s waste of 40% of the food they consume.  Being more carful about the quantity and quality of food we consume may also help Americans curb our excessive rate of obesity (65% of Americans are overweight or obese).


  1. 8. Land Use and Conservation of Natural Areas (Including Utah Lake):  We live in a natural geological bowl.  At times the pollution we generate concentrates in that bowl are we are forced to breathe it, are harmed by it, and have the view of our beautiful surroundings shrouded by its presence.  Major stationary sources of pollution should be moved from our valley and relocated where pollutants are not trapped, and their pollution reduced or eliminated.  Habitat destruction is the major cause of species extinction.  If we continue to destroy the habitats of plants, animals and ourselves (through pollution, deforestation, development, mining and climate change, etc.) we will continue to cause increasing extinction of species and possibly ourselves.  Beneficial local and planetary natural areas should be protected and conserved.  Those in need of remediation, should be restored to a healthy condition.  We need to learn to live in sustainable balance, harmony and respect for the natural world and not treat it as (1) a boundless “resource” for us to continue taking from and (2) a boundless sewer for us to dump our wastes.  Utah Valley is blessed with rich farmland and beautiful views of mountains and Utah Lake.  We should preserve and protect undeveloped farmland and natural areas that help contribute to a healthy air-shed, view-shed and water-shed.


  1. 9. Consumption:  As many of us have heard, the US represents about 5% of the world’s population but consumes nearly 25% of the world’s energy.  Of 17 major countries surveyed by the National Geographic Society—including South Korea, Germany, the UK, France, Mexico, Spain, Russia, China, India, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Hungary and Sweden—the US ranks last in sustainable behavior.  Since it is well know that Americans are very motivated by pocketbook issues, one way to help reduce waste and overconsumption is to follow the advice of David Stockman, President Reagan’s Budget Director.  Stockman suggests that a tiered tax should be levied on all forms of consumption.  He suggests that if an appropriate consumption tax were collected, it could replace the income tax.  He further suggests that lower income individuals and families should receive tax credits to offset the burden placed on them by a consumption tax.  Another way to reduce consumption is for people to pay a tiered fee for the trash containers they use.  The less one consumes the less one discards and the less one pays.


  1. 10. Recycling and Waste:  To reduce waste and increase recycling, we recommend that communities throughout Utah Valley institute recycling for all residents, city offices and businesses.  The cost of providing recycling should be evenly distributed in city utility bills and should be offset by an appropriate charge per trash-container-picked-up (“trash container” being those for non-recycles).  If a resident or business recycles all their wastes, they pay no extra trash collection fee.  Again, this would amount to a tiered incentive system encouraging people to reduce their consumption and to recycle.  Also, the less trash a city buries, the more taxpayer money will be saved in “tipping fees,” and the less landfill space will be needed.


  1. 11. Rapid Growth:  Utah and Utah Valley are experiencing rapid growth.  This can lead to increased pressures on air quality, consumption, transportation, demand for energy and water, infrastructure, housing, land use, waste treatment, governance and the ability of the ecosystem to sustain life in a healthy way.  Steps need to be taken control and shape growth so as to not adversely impact the health and well being of the common good and the good of the environment.  "Smart Growth" (see item 6b above) and placing reasonable and effective limits on urban growth are two strategies.  Planned pregnancies can also be very effective in limiting growth.
 


copyright © 2013-2017 UVEF

Unintentionally, we humans are in the process of adversely affecting creation—the air, water, land, life and the climate—what many call the environment. We are consuming the world’s limited “resources.” The wastes we generate and add to creation are gradually polluting the habitat on which many species, including our own, depend for a healthy existence. Too many of us don’t care enough about or are unaware of the adverse impact we are having on the environment, on our health and on the well-being of creation. Where we get our energy, how we move about, where and how we build our cities and dwellings, where our food comes from and how we consume, how we dispose of our wastes, all have consequences—often harmful. It seems as if we use creation as a sewer for our wastes while we busily consume whatever we want. This is NOT sustainable. And our government, at all levels, seems to lack the necessary motivation (or is even hostile) to do what needs to be done to successfully address the challenges to creation which we face.

The main environmental challenges to the environment (creation) here in Utah County include unhealthy conditions in these areas:


  1. 1.Inadequate, Misguided Leadership

  2. 2.Public Opinion and Lack of Factual Knowledge

  3. 3.Air Pollution

  4. 4.Climate Change and a Warming Planet

  5. 5.Energy Issues

  6. 6.Transportation

  7. 7.Water Use and Conservation

  8. 8.Land Use and Conservation of Natural Areas

  9. 9.Consumption

  10. 10. Recycling and Waste

  11. 11. Rapid Growth

Main environmental problems facing Utah County

and solutions we offer to solve those problems


CHALLENGES/

SOLUTIONS


During periods of bad air quality, we all suffer. Our lives are shortened. We don’t have to pollute the air we breathe.