Quietude

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A couple of years ago, Tim and I left a Zombies concert because the opening act was so excruciatingly loud. I didn’t know the Zombies, but my hubby is a fan. Walking out of Ponte Vedra Concert Hall into the silence was heavenly. I’d long thought Tim overreacted to noise, but after that night, I thought differently. Unlike me, who can remove my hearing aids to lower the noise, he has excellent hearing 24/7. 

We are exposed to a lot of noise. Sitting on a park bench, sounds of nature are drowned out by landscape equipment.

Tim’s pet peeve is gas-powered lawnmowers and leaf blowers. The high-pitched shriek mimics a dental drill gone berserk. Leaf blowers are everywhere! You can’t take a walk from sunrise to sunset without being subjected to the noise or the dirt and dust they leave in their wake. I once watched an employee chase a single cigarette butt across the lot at a gas station as if it was Public Enemy #1.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have been partly responsible for the recent surge in sales of electric and battery leaf blowers sales. With imposed lockdowns and travel restrictions, we couldn’t escape environmental noises. Working remotely changed how we view our priorities. Our attention shifted to improving our living spaces and quietness.

Speech connects people. And we connect with nonhuman species through sound. In the early stages of COVID, people living near airports reported that with less air traffic, they not only heard more birds in their backyards but gained a deeper connection with other species with which we share our earth space. Tim finds sitting on our balcony listening to frogs and crickets at night essential preparation for a good night’s sleep.  

On patient surveys, the quietness of the hospital environment, including the neonatal and intensive care units, gets one of the lowest scores. Traditional landscape maintenance equipment damages our hearing and diminishes our enjoyment of outdoor spaces. Living near airports has a negative health impact on those who live nearby. Like the frog in the pot, we’ve grown accustomed to what’s slowly diminishing our joy of nature. It’s unreasonable and unacceptable that our neighborhood spaces are filled with noise pollution we can’t escape. Quietness is essential for our physical and mental health. A healthy and happy life must be a quiet life to a great extent.

Cities like Palo Alto are working to eliminate or restrict the use of gas-combustion blowers. Using an electric blower would protect our hearing, a good starting point. However, both gas and electric leaf blowers shoot out dust and leaf mold clouds. On windy days the clouds veil our windows, cars, and bushes. When we factor the time and cost of cleaning up the contamination and the health consequences, the price of manicured landscapes is high.  

We must not ignore the voices of living Earth. Too often government and environmental organizations make decisions about our forests and rivers without listening to the species who live there and must be heard. Author and biologist David George Haskell writes, “can we really build a more vital world if we fail to really listen to the sounds of Earth’s living organisms?” Fortunately, the call to nurture our outdoor spaces is already happening, step-by-step.

South Pasadena, California, and Mountain Brook, Alabama are sites of the first green space (AGZA Green Zone®) cites in the US. New York residents are planting small gardens on balconies, terraces, and rooftops. Singapore is Asia’s greenest city, known for its abundance of trees. Copenhagen, Denmark, labeled the greenest city for many reasons, has transitioned all its buses from diesel to electric power.

But we can’t stop there. We need quieter skies, hospitals, restaurants, and cities. It’s a matter of sanity.  

Sources:

Connecting with Nature: https://e360.yale.edu/features/how-listening-to-trees-can-help-reveal-natures-connections

Quiet Communities: https://quietcommunities.org/the-quiet-transition-leading-by-example-in-clean-quiet-land-care-3/

Noise and Hearing Loss: https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hearing_loss/what_noises_cause_hearing_loss.html

6 thoughts on “Quietude

  1. I agree about too much noise. I frequently ask them to turn music down in restaurants as it is impossible to hear the people at your table talk and enjoy your meal.

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    1. Slowly, our noise levels are rising. Instead of a big menu selection, we want less noise and more seating comfort. When it comes to restaurants, I don’t want to wait in lines, dim lights and loud tv or menus with small print, or uncomfortable seats. That’s not too much to ask. Also, skip the fancy drinks and makes sure to have good beer and wine.

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  2. I couldn’t agree more!!! I used to hit the mute button during TV commercials b/c I wasn’t interested. Now I do it b/c it’s just more useless noise to me. Information overload coming at us from all sides from all the electronic devices is also part of this noise pollution. UGH!

    Am wondering if you were trying to find quiet when you attended Mindful Meditation a few times this spring. Hope you’re enjoying your summer.

    Sandra

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