Utah youth hold a ‘die-in’ to mourn the decline of the Great Salt Lake

More than 100 people walked silently in single file in the dry Great Salt Lake sleep Saturday.

They wanted to send a message to Utah’s elected leaders that a healthy Great Salt Lake is vital to the environment, residents and future generations. They called on lawmakers to preserve the lake by investing in practical solutions like reducing water use.

This year, Great Salt Lake hit another record low. Speakers at the event said this is mainly because the water from the tributaries is used for things like harvesting alfalfa and building development instead of going to the lake.

“We really want the water from the Bear River not to be diverted and the water to flow into the Great Salt Lake,” said Natalie Roberts, a 15-year-old member of Utah Youth Environmental Solutions (UYES), the group that organized the “die-in”.

After walking on the crisp lake bed for about three minutes, the crowd arrived at a makeshift cemetery with fake headstones with messages such as “Utah lawmakers let us down” and “RIP Killed by poor air quality”.

As UYES youth leaders Sheyda Allen, 16, and Myra Hicks, 16, listed the environmental impacts of the declining lake, the crowd rolled onto their backs on the salty ground.

“We’ve got a lot more to lose than first meets the eye,” Hicks said. “Utah’s wildlife is one of the greatest suffering. To the brine shrimp in the lake and to the plants at the Wasatch front.

Natalie Roberts, 15, holds a sign in the shape of a tombstone that reads ‘RIP Killed by poor air quality’. As a member of UYES, she helped organize the Grand Lac Salé “die-in” on Saturday September 3, 2022

Through poetry, chants, speeches, songs and visual performances, UYES members and other participants expressed what the lake means to them.

Roberts, a West High student, said that without the lake, “we see less water in the mountains, less water in our water system, less water to drink.”

“And with toxic dust bowls that are starting to spread and will continue to get worse, we will see an increase in air pollution, we will see an increase in deaths and conditions related to breathing this toxic air,” she continued.

Roberts hoped the “die-in” would bring more “emotional value” to the dire situation facing the lake and the negative results that are already beginning if the salty waters turn to dust.

An adult speaker, Flor Isabel, community leadership coordinator at United Way of Salt Lake, said they used to visit Great Salt Lake often. The last time they loaded up their four children for a trip to the lake, “there was no water to swim in.”

Following the lake’s receding, the Kearns resident said he went from one inhaler to three to treat his asthma because the air quality had become so poor. They said their children also suffered from asthma to the point that they couldn’t play outside on bad air days.

Samantha Pensari, another adult and longtime Utah resident, said the lake was a landmark.

“I’ve seen it shrink, but really being here and seeing how many there is is really heartbreaking,” she said, pointing to the shore of the lake about a mile away.

Despite their absence from the event, Roberts said she wants elected officials to hear the message from UYES.

“They continue to ignore the problem that is so visible – the drying up of the Great Salt Lake,” Roberts said. “And they keep coming up with just ridiculous solutions, like building a pipeline from the Pacific Ocean. It’s not a workable solution.

State and federal lawmakers have set aside funds to study the feasibility of a pipeline. Experts say that while the idea would be complicated and expensive, it is worth exploring.

Muskan Walia, a 20-year-old University of Utah student who helped the youth organize the event, said she did it to remind people of the tangible solutions available to save the Great Salt Lake. . She also called on Utah lawmakers to abandon their interests in extracting its resources for the good of residents.

“Set them aside for the people of Utah, for our health, for our biodiversity and our economy,” Walia said.

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