Does anyone pay attention to the wail of car alarms anymore? Most of us disregard them. They usually are set off by accident. They go off so often in urban areas, no one even notices anymore. So why do we still have them? The cause of noise pollution is humanity, and the cure, too will be humanity finding serenity enough to realize the damage we do ourselves and our world.
The question of what causes noise pollution has several answers. Very loud decibels are one answer. Machinery of high impact is another. The price of progress is given, and then there are those who say it is the screeching arrogance of a species who feels entitled to drill, ignite, power up motors, and turbines, grind up forests, growl up fields, and just generally make our raucous noise a prideful point of our presence.
We have car alarms and motorcycles because some people actually like the noise. People actually PAY for snorting motors and car alarms. If we do not object to it, we are just as guilty. Most of us just accept it along with all other loud and disruptive noise we do need such as sirens, car engines, jet traffic, chain saws, and other motorized machines.
Rural communities are not immune. Most everything is mechanized these days; we have to carefully begin to assess the wisdom of being the loudest of the animals.
Decibels are a unit that measures pressure against the eardrum. The higher the number of decibel, the more intrusive, and unnerving is the noise. Loudest common noise is jet engines at over 200 decibels, and lowest, but more persistent to most of us, is traffic flow which hits about 115 decibels. Household gadgets are noisy too. No wonder some are simplifying , by choosing clothes lines over dryers, conversation over the dish sink rather than dishwasher machines, and so on. Yet, some of us have to work beside jet engines every day. Some of us are not wealthy enough to buy the peace which most well-to-do can purchase.
Some people go their whole lives without knowing the peace of a wilderness area. Even these rare and precious places are now shot through with gun fire, and overhead air traffic. One wonders what it was like for most of our ancestry? Before engines, before even firearms, really loud noise was rare. Our attention was yanked toward it naturally, but we have become a species well programmed to ignore most noise today. We toss it off as the cost of progress. Some feel it is not progress, but contamination.
We cannot blame anyone but ourselves of course. The moon landing was noisy, but it was a great step forward. We should be proud of our ingenuity, but it needs to be tempered with our gratitude and realization that every bit of gouging out of earth resources for ever increased power has a price. We once saw resources as infinite, but now if you can hear an engine anywhere within the space you now occupy, you are affected, and are cognizant of the cost of our presence. The green revolution, we all can participate in, will be quieter than the last industrial revolution, if we plan for it. Until then, the “problem” of newer, cleaner quieter motor engines has been raised.
Light pollution has removed the natural rhythms of those species which evolved dependent upon the cues of natural light sun and moon provide. Air pollution, water and ground contamination are facts of life, too. Adding noise pollution to the list is almost an afterthought. But as an afterthought is it one worth thinking about in solitude and serenity. When we learn to value quiet, we can hear ourselves think, and in the natural peace of a more natural world, there are solutions, healing, and guidance.