A typical Earth Day celebration might entail planting a tree in your yard and teaching children about the importance of low-impact living by promoting the habits of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” But in Utah, the celebration of Earth Day has taken on a new spin, and it’s anything but earth-friendly. Utah’s Department of Oil, Gas and Mining is holding its second annual “Earth Day Poster Contest” for K-6 graders celebrating the extraction of fossil fuels and mining.
With the worldwide celebration of Earth Day drawing near on April 22nd, the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining’s “Earth Day Poster Contest’s” theme, “Where Would WE Be Without Oil, Gas and Mining?” is indescribably inappropriate. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Co-sponsored by the Salt Lake Petroleum Section of the Society of Petroleum Engineers and the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, the poster contest is being held to “improve students’ and public’s awareness of the important role that oil, gas and mining play in our everyday lives.” The contest will reward one grand prize winner and one winner from each grade statewide. With Utah boasting one of the top oil, natural gas and mining reserves in the United States, it’s no wonder we also have some of the worst air quality. In this great state, it’s clear that oil, gas and mining production takes precedence over the health of its citizens.
While the Salt Lake Valley had 22 “red air” days of inversion this past winter, with many of those days also having the worst air in the country, I doubt Governor Gary Herbert’s action in endorsing such a contest last year proved that he cares about the health of the planet…let alone Utah’s citizens. What kind of message are we relaying to our children when we hold a contest promoting the extraction of fossil fuels that tear into the planet…on EARTH DAY no less?!?
So in lieu of Utah’s Department of Oil, Gas and Mining’s “Earth Day Poster Contest,” Utah Moms for Clean Air decided to hold a more appropriate “Love Your Mother Earth Poster Contest,” asking children K-6 to instead “honor the intent of Earth Day” by “Exploring the Economic, Environmental and Health Costs of Fossil Fuels” (or in other words, exploring the impacts of burning fossil fuels). The rules are the same, and Utah Moms for Clean Air hopes that their alternative contest will remind our state’s children of the impact extracting and burning of fossil fuels has on the earth. And, it is no coincidence that Governor Herbert refused to endorse Utah Moms for Clean Air’s Earth Day contest. No coincidence at all.
While locally, Gov. Herbert ignored Utah Moms for Clean Air‘s hopes of reminding Utah’s children the true meaning of an Earth Day celebration, his actions didn’t go unnoticed. News of Utah’s Earth Day Poster Contest went viral, sparking controversy on both sides. Apparently, a high percentage of Utah citizens also find Gov. Herbert’s poster contest inappropriate. Attracting even the likes of Steven Colbert! On“Colbert Report,” he likened the state’s embarrassment of the poster contest to the celebration of John Wilkes Booth on President’s Day.
As a parent, and a Utah citizen, I would like to take this time to tell MCAF parents that the importance of Earth Day is not to celebrate what we can take from the Earth, but why it’s necessary to teach our children to show her the respect she deserves. For it is not what she gives to us in the form of fossil fuels to operate vehicles that should be celebrated, we should celebrate her good health. Because without it, we would not, and will not survive.