The modern world is too loud. Noise pollution wreaks havoc on the behavioral patterns and stress levels of wildlife. Ecosystems shift in the wake of chronic noise: seed dispersers, pollinators and their predators avoid the clamor, thus changing the landscape of plants and trees. And, as the New Yorker reported earlier this month, all this human-made noise is responsible for a public health crisis for humans, too – causing hearing damage, high blood pressure, heart disease, low birth weight, and disrupted sleep on a mass scale.
‘The absolute scourge of our time’: readers respond to noise in cities The takeaway? We are literally killing ourselves with noise.
Yet, while we talk a lot about reducing our carbon footprint, the notion of reducing one’s “noise footprint” is rarely discussed. Why? Perhaps noise pollution – whose loudest offenders are powerful entities like the shipping, logging and manufacturing industries – just feels too pervasive to tackle. But environmentally conscious citizens should work to improve their communities’ soundscapes – and lowering your individual noise output is a great way to start.
Here are several ideas on how to minimize your noise footprint:
Expand your awareness of noise pollution
Garret Keizer, author of The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want, suggests sitting down, closing your eyes, and making a list of every noise you can hear, from macro noises (ie ambulance sirens) to micro (ie the refrigerator running). Those living in urban and suburban areas will probably rack up a long list.
Yet even people in rural or protected natural areas may notice the presence of distant traffic, aircraft and industrial noise. Freedom from unwanted and unnatural sound is increasingly elusive. As explorer Erling Kagge put it in his book Silence: In the Age of Noise, wherever you are in the world, silence is “almost extinct”.
Ditch loud outdoor activities for quieter choices
After becoming more sensitive to the noise around you, try cutting back on your most raucous activities. Some of the loudest culprits are motorcycles and sports cars with ear-splitting exhausts. Other common noise offenders include recreational vehicles like snowmobiles, ATVs and motorboats. Even at legal decibel levels, these vehicles have detrimental effects on humans and nature.
Given the sonic disturbance to fish and birds, many parks across the US have banned gas-powered vehicles altogether. Even if they’re permitted in your area, however, consider switching to mellower forms of outdoor fun and transportation. Canoeing or kayaking get you out on to the water without harming or masking the natural acoustic environment. Biking in …