Working Group Descriptions
The working groups are meant to be smaller groups that will foster discussion according to shared interests, but each group will be discussing overlapping subsets of several key topics.
Science & The Media:
A significant challenge in translating scientific understanding to evidence-based policy is communication. Policymakers respond to public pressure, but scientists generally lack training in outreach to disengaged (or even antipathetic) citizens with low scientific literacy, and media professionals are trained to place other priorities above education. The challenge can be exacerbated by advocacy groups, working for deep-pocket industries, that actively work to sow doubt. This breakout will pool scientists and media professionals to discuss strategies for effective communication to the media and the broader public, and address how best to make the public more aware of when inversions are looming; what they can do to reduce sources at those times, and why it matters.
Public Outreach & Public Health:
Air pollution poses the single largest environmental risk to health according to the WHO. By reducing air pollution levels, Cache Valley can reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma. The lower the levels of air pollution, the better the cardiovascular and respiratory health of the population will be, both long- and short-term.
Public education and outreach are an important part of the overall strategy to reduce motor vehicle travel and emissions. Members in the public health field can encourage the public to take direct action to reduce emissions and improve air quality. Efforts to reduce vehicle travel, particularly on days with air alerts, can help.
Education & Curriculum:
A strong commitment to environmental education will be key to reaching all corners of the community. Environmental education focuses on the interactions between society and the environment; Air quality is a fitting arena for such a focus because so much of what people do in their daily lives impacts air quality. An effective environmental education program emphasizes experiential learning, with the philosophy that the best way for students to learn is to become actively engaged in whatever it is that they seek to learn. This breakout group will analyze effective paths to take toward teaching air quality education in our schools.
Citizen Involvement & Political Process:
Civic awareness is key to solving any environmental problem. Changes in individual behavior require both citizen awareness and buy-in. Regulatory actions are more broadly effective, but motivating political solutions requires clear and consistent messages from constituents. This breakout will focus on effective strategies for citizen lobbying, and how politicians must balance environmental and other concerns.
Buildings & Energy:
Local and regional governments play an important role in reducing indoor and outdoor air pollution via enforcement (e.g., of the newly enacted wood-burning restrictions), educating the community about air quality issues, and considering impacts on air quality when making decisions about policies, programs or initiatives in buildings they own and/or manage, transportation and energy programs, and land use. This breakout group will examine the plans that are in place, and consider what improvements can be made and/or additional actions can be taken.
Bicycling and walking, together called active transportation, play a significant role in supporting public health efforts and meeting reduction in air pollution goals in Cache Valley. With improved planning for bicycling and pedestrian use, Cache Valley citizens will be more likely to get out of their cars and opt to walk or bike instead. This change helps promote higher quality of life, improved opportunities for exercise, lower transportation costs, and progress towards meeting air quality goals for our area.
When it comes to our environment, riding public transit makes a big difference–it conserves natural resources, reduces air pollution and harmful ozone levels. Studies have recently shown that where cities have invested in transit, unemployment has dropped. It is proving to not just reduce air pollution, but boost the local economy as well. The challenge is in getting the public to use it. This breakout group will explore ideas on how to increase ridership of public transportation and decrease the number of cars on the road throughout the Cache Valley.
It is commonly stated that a significant percentage of our air pollution comes from agricultural sources, but very little information is readily available to the public regarding how agriculture contributes, what fraction it represents, and how its effects can be mitigated.