We’ve had a relatively warm and dry winter here in Boston. Now with snow threatening people are throwing rock salt onto the roads and sidewalks. Not just “people,” rather, the cities of Boston and Cambridge and the grounds people at Boston University where I work.
Salt is a simple “solution” to the problem of snow and ice but unlike good solutions, this one comes along with plenty of problems.
Salt kills. It penetrates the soil and changes its chemistry, destroying microorganisms that help plants grow.
It changes the osmotic environment for plant roots so that water flows out of them instead of in.
Salt corrodes public infrastructure and it destroys private vehicles.
If you walk in the salt it ruins the soles of your shoes and boots.
And if you ride a bike like me you get it all over your tires, in your eyes, on your glasses, and in your mouth.
Salt may be the cheapest solution to de-icing our roads but it is far and away the worst way to do the job. These images are from a photo essay I did for flickr a few years ago called “City of Salt.” I’d love to hear your comments.