This is an archived article that was published on in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

While Utah's elected leaders launch a wild goose chase for public lands, pat themselves on the back for being creeped out by pornography and tout their willingness to defy federal authority, the greatest threat to life in the Beehive State literally hangs in the air around them.

And about that they do next to nothing. They don't even talk about it very much. Because, after all, solving that problem would be hard. Would cost money. Force lifestyle changes.

So much better, our leaders have decided, to fuss over things they cannot — and should not — control, that affect people much less or not at all, than to really face up to the problem of air pollution along the Wasatch Front and the Uinta Basin.

The latest ratings have just come out from the American Lung Association. And, once again, Utah looks bad. Though not as bad as before.

The Salt Lake City metro area, which includes Provo and Orem, ranked as the sixth-worst community for short-term particulate pollution. Logan ranked seventh. Last year, the rankings were worse. And they stand to be even more embarrassing next time, as the latest evaluation didn't include last winter's conditions.

Yes, the degree of difficulty for solving these problems around here is high. Climate and topography conspire to trap various kinds of pollution over communities that would escape those problems if they sat on flat land somewhere else.

But they don't. And so it is up to us to either move or cut down on the amount of pollutants we pour into our air and, indirectly, into our lungs.

The Legislature has pushed and paid for some steps. And Gov. Gary Herbert has tried to jawbone different groups — from big oil refineries to all those with wood-burning fireplaces in their homes — to alter their behavior for the greater good. He's had some luck with those who make gasoline. But moves to restrict burning logs by individuals were shouted down.

It all adds up to the inescapable conclusion that the issues our elected leaders want to talk about are not just pointless but deliberate distractions — bones thrown to party regulars and convention delegates who are not representative of the state as a whole.

As long as they prattle on about how they will wrest control of 30 million acres away from the federal government, or reclaim the state's right to discriminate against gay people, they hope we won't notice how little they've done to clean up our air.

We do notice. But unless we start voting for different people, nothing's going to change.