Expert Alert

Can music and dance reduce salt pollution?

Mark Pedelty

Each winter, Minnesota uses thousands of tons of salt on public roads and on private properties. This de-icing salt gets into lakes, streams and groundwater, threatening drinking water and aquatic life. One part of reducing salt usage is helping people understand the impact improper and excessive de-icing has on their local watersheds.

But how to do that?

University of Minnesota expert Mark Pedelty and his collaborators created Ecosong.Net to inform the public about chloride pollution — and other environmental stressors — in an entertaining way. Their four-minute original music video, “Watershed,” a collaboration with the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, has been used by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and local townships to engage and education communities across the state of Minnesota.

Mark Pedelty, Ph.D.
“Music and dance is a great way to mobilize a community. From large scale civil rights, human rights, labor, women’s, LGBTQ and environmental movements to local community organizing, music is an art that organizes. Music can encourage us to consume, party and ignore problems — and there can be a comforting catharsis in such moments of consensual forgetting — but music and dance can also help us to remember and express what matters most and celebrate that which we aspire to achieve, together.  

“Each of these dancers, musicians and videographers — about 50 in all — became experts and organizers on the topic, fulfilling University of Minnesota’s mission as a public land grant institution. We have produced videos about noise pollution, rain gardens and the effects of climate change on Minnesota’s lakes. Perhaps none have hit the mark quite like ‘Watershed’. We hope it can continue to share its message, both as a music video and via live events with the community.”



Contact information
Mark Pedelty
[email protected]
612-205-4514 (o)

Mark Pedelty is a fellow in the Institute on the Environment and a professor in the College of Liberal Arts on the Twin Cities campus. He specializes in how music and sound can be used to communicate environmental issues. Pedelty produces, directs, and composes music videos for Ecosong.Net, watershed districts, and environmental nonprofits. These productions have earned numerous film festival awards and official selections.

In 2018, Pedelty and the rest of the Hypoxic Punks partnered with the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization and U of M student dancers to create “Watershed,” a song-and-dance celebration of the movement to combat chloride pollution. Tim Gustafson, a professor in the College of Liberal Arts on the Twin Cities campus, wrote the song and Bob Poch, a senior fellow in the College of Education and Human Development, kept everyone on beat.

‘Watershed’ has received a number of official selections and awards at various film festivals. This music video and others on and live concert exchanges are to help create esprit-de-corps within partnering stewardship organizations.

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