SALT LAKE CITY — A group of young activists are hoping to bring about change and are pushing for state leaders to tackle the Great Salt Lake crisis now — sooner rather than later.
“Camping, hiking, kayaking – things like that have been a big part of what I’ve done for fun here, and I want future generations to continue to be able to enjoy activities like that,” said Niels Matsen, a youth organizer at the rally on Saturday morning.
People of all ages gathered near the Great Salt Lake to raise awareness of the crisis facing the lake and the threat it poses to the entire state.
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“We’re here to remind people, the people of our state, that what’s happening here is going to impact biodiversity, the economy and people’s health,” said Muskan Walia, a youth environmental organizer with Utah. Youth Environmental Solutions (U-OUI), the group that hosted this event. “We are here to remind people that power comes from below.”
There were speeches addressed to the crowd, poems read, signs held and messages shared – all to help people understand the dire situation at the lake.
“It has so much impact on everything else in our lives – not just our health, but also our enjoyment and quality of life. If we want to keep skiing, this is kind of our last fight for that. said Sheyda Allen, a youth organizer.
People walked over an area of the lake bed that had dried up and staged what they called a “die-in”, which involved lying down to show what would happen if the lake was not not quickly saved. Volunteers held up tombstones to highlight some of the challenges the loss of the Great Salt Lake would bring.
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“A protest is a great way to build collective power, but I think the next step is to turn that power into collective action,” Walia said.
Organizers say one way to do this is to pressure the legislature to make immediate change. The volunteers added that it is not enough to have this crisis on lawmakers’ radar and that the lake needs solutions immediately.
“Stop diverting water for alfalfa fields, stop diverting water for mining, stop diverting water for big development,” said Maria Archibald with U-YES. “Allow naturally flowing water to reach the Great Salt Lake.”
And the work will not stop. These activists said they plan to hold more events and help people understand how they can help.
“To show people that they care about these kinds of events and that they really have that support as individuals so that we can have support as a group,” Allen added.