Editor’s Notebook

Like farting under the covers

By Greta Belanger deJong

On a clear day, Salt Lake City is a beautiful place, with vistas in all directions  that can’t be beat—weather and human activity permitting, of course.

On December 28, 2016, two weeks after CATALYST became a nonprofit (Common Good Press), I got a call from Jim French.

Jim was on the board of Revolution United, a nonprofit that was disbanding. The group had started a clean air fair a few years earlier and wanted that event to live on, and wondered if CATALYST would like to pick up the mantle. Would we ever!

The venue had already been procured, the date was set—for January 28, 2017. We had one month, to the day, to pull it off.

We got to work. Thank goodness for Jim and for David Brooks and other volunteers and my staff —especially when, two weeks before the event, I got sick and on January 20 ended up in the hospital. I asked for a Trumpectomy. All I got was my appendix removed, but that and an accompanying virus was enough to knock me out of the game.

Thanks to kind friends and some weird prescription drug that kept me upright, sort of, I was able to attend the 4th Annual Clean Air Fair long enough to sense the enthusiasm and hunger for a project like this.

In January of 2018 we came back with CATALYST’S Clean Air Solutions Fair, doubling the attendance and number of exhibitors.

This month, it’s happening again —at Gateway Mall (new location), inside the former Urban Outfitters space just south of Union Station on 400 West. See story, left, for details!

Can you imagine what Salt Lake City was like during an inversion pre-1945 when people heated with coal or wood? And automobiles, while few, were dirtier than today’s cars. It must have been quite a mess.

A friend who as a child lived in the upper Avenues in the early 1940s recollected that as soon as there was enough snow, all the kids would grab their sleds and head outside because the snow would be black if you waited too long. In Big Rock Candy Mountain, set partly in Salt Lake in the 1930s, novelist Wallace Stegner comments on how dirty the city is.

It’s good to stop and consider once in a while that sometimes, some things do improve.


A lot of people aren’t clear on the difference between air pollution and an inversion. Jessica Reimer’s explanation, right, sets the record straight in grownup terms. Knowing this is step one in understanding why our habits in a time of inversion are crucial to how bad the air gets.

I was attempting to describe this to an 11-year-old boy, the son of a friend. I used the putting-the-lid-on-the-soup bowl analogy.

He looked thoughtful. As understanding dawned, his eyes lit up and he nodded. “I get it,” he said. “It’s like farting under the covers.”

That’s certainly one way of putting it. And if it works for him, it works for me.

Using the right word and understanding the basic science is great. Whether you call it “inversion” or “air pollution,” though, the solutions are the same—a point made all the more pointed by the growing summer situation. Summer ozone pollution has nothing to do with inversions. But how humans respond is the same.

Humans. That’s us. Our responses matter. Because it’s getting real out there.

Come to the Clean Air Solutions Fair on January 19 and get inspired.

—Greta Belanger deJong

Greta Belanger deJong is the founder and editor of CATALYST.

This article was originally published on December 31, 2018.