This Saturday, more than a thousand Utahns gathered at the state capitol to celebrate progress and support next steps in our efforts to restore Great Salt Lake. The number and diversity of participants makes me believe that we are in a different world than last year. I think that we are on the brink of something new. We are moving from preparation to implementation. We are graduating from impotence to action.
As usual, I went off script at the rally, but here is what I wrote in preparation:
Wow! Who is feeling something different about our future than when we arrived today? I am. Do you feel the power and love of our little band? One of the most important lessons of ecology and human history is that little things matter. Each of you matters.
To use Terry’s phrase, I feel something deeper than hope. For me, I call this faith. Faith is believing that we can create a better world, but faith is more than just a belief. Faith is the state of being where we let confidence overcome fear, but faith is more than just a state of being. Faith is an act of creation where we mobilize our love. That love moves us naturally from compassion to action and back to compassion. As we read in James, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
Is our faith dead? No! You all prove that our body is alive, and our faith is sizzling hot.
Many of us gathered here last year to call for change. We asked for a clear target and decisive action to rescue the lake we all depend on. Many of us prayed for divine assistance to give us the time we needed to repent and change direction.
Things have changed since then, and like usual, not in the ways we expected. Some progress that seemed inevitable stalled and fizzled out. But some obstacles that seemed immovable have dissolved.
Tens of thousands of people have gathered at events throughout the region to support the Great Salt Lake rescue. New leaders have germinated all over the watershed, including students of all ages, citizens of all walks of life, and leaders in government and business. I have seen a change in the relationship between urban and rural communities—less blaming and less fear; more solidarity and even enthusiasm. Visionary farmers are making major changes, and pioneering cities are pushing the envelope to get water to the lake. We are seeing incredibly diverse community groups collaborate in new ways—forging friendships that will bless our region for generations.
Thanks to the tireless work of educators and reporters, our struggle has turned into the world’s best reality TV show. Hundreds of millions of people are tuned in to see if we can crack the code. Will we be the first community to save our saline lake, or are we just the next Aral Sea or Owens Lake? When there is coverage of Great Salt Lake, even the comments sections have gotten more constructive. The world is watching, and they are rooting for us.
Our elected officials are a part of this cultural shift. Just this week, the state established “a target range for the lake between 4,198-4,205 feet” through its office of the Great Salt Lake Commissioner. Will we take a moment to celebrate and give thanks? The Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Trust is slowly securing water for the lake, and some of the most powerful members of the Utah house and senate are working to implement and improve water policy.
All of this leads me to believe that saving the lake is exactly the crisis we have needed. Realizing our mutual dependence and relationship is helping shake us out of the division and despair that seem so persistent right now. Living up to our responsibility as caretakers and ancestors brings opportunity for service, belonging, and lasting love.
Like water, we are percolating towards the lake. Sometimes our progress is fast like a river rapid. Other times the change is quiet and patient, like the groundwater slowly flowing to the lake beneath our feet.
I want to invite you to do two things:
First, I want you to send some thank you emails, letters, or phone calls. Will you reach out to at least one elected official at the city, state, and federal levels to thank them for their work on Great Salt Lake?
Second, will you reflect on what unlocked your love for the lake? What experiences and what people helped you recognize your dependence on and love for the beating heart at the center of our universe? Will you commit to inviting at least one person a week to do the same? Most people care, but most people aren’t awake yet.
We are more than just a part of our watershed, we are the most important part right now. Great Salt Lake is inviting us to learn how to live in our high mountain home.
I sometimes hear from researchers that the Earth will be fine. Maybe humans will suffer, maybe we’ll even be extinguished, but the Earth has weathered far worse. That brings me such sorrow. Do we have such little compassion for the Earth that we can forget her love for us? Like all life in its impossible diversity, we are needed and loved.
The lake doesn’t need our despair; she needs our discipline.
The lake doesn’t need our anxiety; she needs our action.
The lake doesn’t need our resignation; she needs our resolve.
The lake doesn’t need our pity; she needs our policies.
Let’s get water to the lake.