For Earth Day, Utah Kids Asked To Celebrate…Fossil Fuels?!!?

It’s the Utah Division of Oil, Gas & Mining, but, boy, we wish it were “Oil, Mining & Gas.” The OMG: As in, oh my god for Earth Day you seriously asked little schoolchildren to draw posters celebrating fossil fuels???

It sounds like an April Fool’s Day joke, right? But this happened long before the first of the month – entries in the contest, put on through the state agency with a sponsoring hand from the Salt Lake Petroleum Section of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, closed back in mid-March.

image via InfiniteWorld/Tim Brown

Winter inversion in Salt Lake City area (image via InfiniteWorld/Tim Brown)

Open to K-6 and special ed students, the Earth Day Poster Contest had as its theme: “Where Would WE Be Without Oil, Gas & Mining?” Among the contest’s objectives, according to the info sheet put out by the agency, was “to improve students’ and the public’s awareness of the important role that oil, gas, and mining play in our everyday lives,” and “to highlight how modern mining and petroleum extraction techniques and reclamation methods minimize environmental impacts while providing society with the raw materials required to have our high standard of living.”

Never mind that oil, gas and mining also conspire with Mother Nature – the weather and the unique topography of the Salt Lake City area – to give Utah some of the worst air in the country.

In late January, the Deseret News reported: “The numbers of alert days in Utah have been steadily climbing over the past 10 years. In 2002, Salt Lake City had six air quality alert days. So far this winter, there have been 19 alert days in the Salt Lake Valley.” Last August, KSL reported on the state’s high asthma rates that result from the poor air quality, but said that’s not the only problem: “Pollution has been linked to cognitive decline and depression. Some physicians even estimate that Utah’s air kills 2,000 people every year and takes two years off of your life.”

If there’s any place on God’s green earth that ought to be embracing clean energy and doing everything it can to make fossil fuels a distant memory, it’s Utah.

The good news is there are people in Utah who understand this: a group of moms, specifically, who are weary of having to keep their kids indoors on days when the air outside is too nasty to breath.

So there’s now another Earth Day poster contest happening in Utah, and it’s still open to entries. It’s the Utah Moms for Clean Air “Love Your Mother” Earth Day Poster Contest. It theme is to “Explore the Economic, Environmental and Health Costs of Fossil Fuels.” And yes, “exploring the impacts of burning fossil fuels is encouraged.”

As you might expect, Colbert had some fun with all this:

Story sources: Green Car Reports and The Salt Lake Tribune.

For more info on Utah’s pollution problem, see the Utah Air Pollution: A Public Health Emergency.

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.