SALT LAKE CITY — A group of youth activists is hoping to make a change and is pushing for state leaders to address 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 living here, and I want future generations to continue being able to enjoy activities like that,” said Niels Matsen, a youth organizer at the rally Saturday morning.
People of all ages gathered by the Great Salt Lake to raise awareness about the crisis the lake is facing, and the threat it poses to the whole state.
“We’re here to remind the people, the people of our state, that what’s happening here is going to impact the biodiversity, the economy and the people’s health,” said Muskan Walia, a youth environmental organizer with Utah Youth Environmental Solutions (U-YES), the group that hosted this event. “We’re here to remind people that power comes from the ground up.”
There were speeches addressing the crowd, poems read, signs held and messages shared — all to help people understand the dire situation of the lake.
“This has so much impact on everything else in our life — not just our health, but just our enjoyment and quality of life. If we want to continue skiing, this is kind of our last fight for it,” said Sheyda Allen, a youth organizer.
People walked over an area of the lake bed that has dried up and staged what they called a “die-in,” which consisted of lying down to demonstrate what would happen if the lake isn't saved soon. Volunteers held up tombstones to highlight some of the challenges that losing the Great Salt Lake would lead to.
“A demonstration is a great way to build to build collective power, but I think that the next step moving forward is how do we turn that power into collective action,” said Walia.
One way of doing this, the organizers said, is by putting pressure on the legislature to make an immediate change. Volunteers added that just having this crisis on lawmakers' radar isn’t enough, and the lake needs solutions right away.
“Stop diverting water for alfalfa fields, stop diverting water for mining industry, stop diverting water for big development," said Maria Archibald with U-YES. "Allow the water that naturally flows to make it to the Great Salt Lake."
And the work won’t stop. These activists said they plan to host more events and help people understand how they can help.
“For people to show that they care and show up to these kinds of events and just really have that support as individuals so that we can have support as a group,” added Allen.