Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Exhaust . . . ion

Right off the bat, I'm going to warn you--if you love Utah, if you find it wonderful, beautiful, amazing, perfect, or whatever, don't read any further.  Seriously.  Because what I have to say here is from the heart, but if you're a fan of the state, you're going to get your feelings hurt, you're going to get mad, and, honestly, I don't want to hear it.  You love the place?  GOOD!  You can HAVE it!  I'm glad you're happy there, because the alternative is you're miserable, and I don't want you to be miserable.  I was miserable--so I left.  See how well that worked out?  So if you're in love with the place, skip this entry, because you are sure to be offended.

*******************Begin Offensive Anti-Utah Rant*******************
In case you didn't know, I spent almost 40 years living in Utah.  40 really long, drawn-out, oppressive years.  Most of it in the northern part of the state (Weber and Davis Counties), some a bit farther south, in Utah County (Orem and Provo).  While I did my best to fully explore (hiking in Wasatch, Cache, and Uinta Forests, camping from north of Logan to Zion and Bryce, rock-hounding in all parts of the state), fact is, I hated it there.  I hated it because of the miserable drought most years.  I hated it because of the crap melding of politics and religion that make it near-impossible for anything but the most conservative of candidates to win.  I hated it because it was sour and grey, with Ogden coming in as the dirtiest, most sprawling carbuncle of ugly right on top.  But most of all?

I hated the air.

Northern Utah has some of the worst air in the country.  I want you to think about that.  During long stretches, it's worse than Los Angeles.  Worse than Detroit.  Worse than Phoenix.  Worse than Chicago, New York, or Washington DC.  Here, check this out:

Utah's Crappy Air

Photo Credit: The University of Utah

No, that picture isn't doctored.  And no, this isn't a recent phenomenon--my first memory of a very similar view (coming down Little Cottonwood Canyon on the way home from Snowbird) is from 1983.  Is it worse now?  Yes, as a trend, it is worsening, though there are occasionally better (and worse) patches.  Suffice to say, the air has long sucked, and continues to suck even more.  There are Utahns of a particular political bent who will actually argue, "It's because it's a basin, a bowl, this has ALWAYS happened, even when it was just Native Americans!"

Holy cow, what is that noise coming out of your face?  Are you REALLY that dull?  Have temperature inversions "always happened?"  Sure, quite likely--after all, they're a by-product of the local geology, and that hasn't changed too terribly much in the past thousand years or so.  But to argue that Native Americans also had air pollution so staggeringly bad that lung cancer, asthma, COPD, and emphysema rates were affected?  To argue that Native Americans had to stay inside their tepees, hogans, and wickiups in order to dodge the birth-defect causing, heart-attack inspiring levels of pollution?

Wow.  Because there's always got to be someone looking to push that stupidity envelope.

Sadly, Utah goes right every election. EVERY election.  Doesn't matter who the candidates are, Utah goes right.  Sure, they get the occasional "democrat" like Tim Matheson, but have you looked at his voting record?   That's no democrat, kids.  And a state that goes right AND is the home to refineries, copper giants, coal-burning power plants, traffic congestion, steel mills, and gigantic chemical plants?  You can cry out until you're blue in the face (won't take long with that air), but you will not in any way change things.  Your shouting will not save your kids (or grandkids) from breathing in that toxic swill.  Only sweeping and stringent federal action will do that, and looking at the republicans we have in office at the national level?  

Get a gas mask.  Smith and Edwards likely has a deal.

The Kennecott Smokestack near Magna--we used to call it "Orthanc."  

Had you asked me twenty years ago, I'd have told you that, by 2013, Utah's air would be markedly cleaner.  I'd have told you that the bulk of Utah's electricity would be coming from wind, solar, and water.  I'd have predicted amazing hybrid and electric cars, and the few that still ran on purely fossil fuels would have drastically improved mileage.  

Boy, wasn't I a sucker?

I was younger.  I was naive.  I completely mis-estimated the influence business, especially oil, has on our political process.  Our "representatives" are owned.  Not all of them, just enough to quash clean air and improved mileage requirements.  Just enough to make sure that oil comes out on top every time.  Just enough to subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) weaken or kill legislation that steers us away from fossil fuels and nuclear and toward wind, water, and solar.  Hey, who gets rich off sunlight and breezes?  Not the robber barons in charge now.  So those things get short shrift.  Because who cares what happens to things during our children's and grandchildren's lives?  We'll be dead then, not our problem.

Enough of that.

Well, I thought today might have the mopping and vacuuming in it, but it turns out I was wrong.  It has the reading, writing, and napping in it.  Maybe tomorrow, huh?

Here, have some bad paneling.  That's always good for a lift:

Help me out, what is that . . . recess?  Is that a shelf?  A shuttered window? 


  1. It looks like a piece of smoked glass, inexplicably hung on the wall.

    1. You know, Heather, I think you might be right. I thought it might be a mirror, but if so, that's a very small, very paneled room.

  2. One of these days I'm going to send you a picture of our sleeping room. It has fake pine paneling, and over 3000 books on shelves. Oh, and a ceiling tile ceiling.

    It's a room that should have been remodeled but never was. I'm always glad to turn the lights out.

  3. LOL, Merikay! You should--would you mind if I posted it? My old place was a mess of paneling--the upstairs I thought was okay (I posted a pic of it a while back), but the basement was the dark, fake stuff--like veneer wallpaper on cardboard? It was warped and awful and was molding from the floor up. I think it scarred me ;-) I love that you have all the books, though--books make it better!