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At the end of a 14-year period, ending in 2013, the Colorado River ended its driest spell in 1,200 years. The river was one of the many sustainability issues discussed at the fifth annual Intermountain Sustainability Summit at Weber State University today.
Sally Jewell, the U.S. secretary of the interior, gave the keynote address in the Shepherd Union Ballrooms. The Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service at WSU brought Jewell in to speak.
“Climate issues are present everywhere I look in my job,” Jewell said.
Jewell discussed her job as the secretary of the interior and the issues of sustainability facing the country.
“We have an opportunity to learn from scientists, learn from land managers, learn from people like the 2,100 people who are Utahns who work for the Department of the Interior,” Jewell said.
Jewell discussed the Baby Boomers and the upcoming Millennial Generation who will take their place. When the economic crisis of 2008 hit, Jewell said, the government didn’t have the budget to hire interns and seasoned park rangers as they had in the past. She asked, “Who will run Hoover Dam after the two guys who are running it now retire?”, stressing the importance of getting the youth to care about the land and how the U.S. needs to triple the number of volunteers on public lands to bring the number to 1 million.
“One of the most important things parents can do with with their kids is to let them play . . . let them explore the landscape,” Jewell said.
Jewell said the public lands are important to maintain, because of the money they bring into the communities. According to Jewell, the state of Utah brings in an estimated $613 million in tourist spending and created more than 9,400 jobs on public lands.
Jewell said that, while some people may see regulation as a “dirty word,” it’s a valuable tool in serving the public good.
“The reality is people expect us to take care of our lands and water, and one of the ways we do that is regulations,” she said.
WSU President Charles Wight opened the conference, saying, “I am struck by the sheer beauty of the campus.”
Wight introduced the first speaker, C. Arden Pope, the Mary Lou Fulton Professor of Economics at Brigham Young University, who spoke about the danger of air pollution, specifically fine particulate matter, known as PMs. PMs are small particulates, dust and chemicals that get stuck in the air, which have been linked to adverse health effects.
Pope presented several studies that link increased air population to higher health risks, specifically cardiovascular and respiratory problems. He cited recent studies that show reducing air population, even in the cleanest cites, can increase the median life expectancy.
Pope said studies were done with considerations for other socioeconomic factors that may affect life expectancy. Despite this, Pope talked about a group of congressmen who introduced the Secret Science Reform Act, asking that the government turn over its studies. Pope said these studies have been publicly available in major health journals for more than 10 years.
“It’s not ‘secret science,’” he said.
Carol McNamara, director of the Walker Institute,said she was excited to have a Cabinet member speak on WSU’s campus.
“It’s an opportunity for students to engage themselves in the issues that the interior addresses,” McNamara said.
The speeches kicked off the Intermountain Sustainability Summit, which will continue through tomorrow.