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Students Rally For Clean Air At Utah Capitol

Judy Fahys
Hundreds of private-school students took their case for cleaning up the air to Utah's Capitol on Thursday.

Students from the Madeleine Choir School marched through the snowy, chilly morning Thursday.

They chanted “What do you want? Clean air. When do you want it? Right now” on their way to the Capitol steps. That’s where hundreds gathered to rally anyone who’d listen.

“We’re here today to raise our voices and raise awareness as future voters and lawmakers, and we want lower PM2.5 levels,” said Katie Henn, a senior at Rowland Hall, one of the Salt Lake City private schools behind the call for action. “Let’s hear it for clean air.”

Lawmakers and clean air activists joined hundreds of students in jazzing the crowd for an hour -- about government policies and everyday practices to improve air quality. Speakers told how air pollution harms health and how it can be cleaned up.

Abbey Trewitt, a Choir School fifth grader, keeps the message positive because finger-pointing just turns people off to the clean-air message.

“So when you say stuff like you can carpool and you can be idle-free and just everyone’s baby steps and how you can make a change – it just has a positive effect on everyone, and they want to help,” she says.

In effect, the students became teachers.

“There are a lot of ways to fix our air,” Giovanni Nuvan, also a Choir School fifth grader, wrapped up the rally by saying he’s tired of breathing smog. It keeps him from seeing the mountains, makes his throat sore and keeps him indoors for recess.

He wants elected leaders -- and everyone else -- to work together to clean it up. “And make Utah beautiful and healthy again!”

Activists are already tracking more than two dozen air-quality bills at the Legislature. 

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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