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Breathing Stories:

Utah Voices for Clean Air

In the 2017 State of the Air report, the American Lung Association ranked Salt Lake’s air quality as the 6th worst in the nation and gave Utah as a whole an “F” for ozone and “D” for particulate pollution. For years, environmental groups, moms, doctors, activists, and concerned residents of Utah have worked tirelessly to advocate for clean air. What we need more of, though, is story. Utah officials know the statistics on our polluted air, but they need to hear from you. To fully emphasize the gravity of our air pollution problem, we need your story.


In coordination with local clean air groups, Torrey House Press will create a soft-bound chapbook called Breathing Stories: Utah Voices for Clean Air. During the first week of the legislative session in February, we will deliver a copy to every state legislator as well as to many city, county, and tribal councils across the state. This project will also empower our community. Your story will inspire others to speak up, to share their air story, and demand a clean future.


We need your most moving, impassioned, carefully argued words you have ever crafted in the name of clean air. This may be a fragment, a paragraph, a poem, an excerpt, or an essay. Please write no more than 800 words. Submit your story.


Why This Matters

On red air days in Salt Lake City, the dense smog blurs the Wasatch Mountains, making us lose our sense of direction and rootedness in place. The air tastes and smells toxic. Maintaining the status quo is unacceptable. Too many young kids are getting asthma. Too many elderly people go to the hospital from pollution related illnesses. Too many people who live nearest to the refineries and highways—mostly people of color and low income populations—experience disproportionate harm. Our pollution problem is not only a public health crisis, it is rampant environmental injustice.


And air quality is not just a problem for the Wasatch Front. Ozone levels reach such unhealthy levels in Uintah County that the increase in miscarriage rates has been correlated with poor air. Our national parks—our sanctuaries from pollution—are even threatened by regional haze from the increase in oil and gas extraction. Poor air quality threatens our entire state.


Our Inspiration

In 2016, Torrey House worked with Utah writer Stephen Trimble to create a soft-bound chapbook that spoke on behalf of Utah’s public lands: Red Rock Testimony. When Stephen and Kirsten of Torrey House delivered the chapbook to D.C., one official said, “We need these words.” Learn more about Red Rock Testimony.

This project has received funding from Utah Humanities (UH). UH empowers Utahns to improve their communities through active engagement in the humanities.

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