Finding a solution to noise pollution
Ah, the sounds of summer: Water gently lapping at the shoreline. Leaves rustling in the trees. The call of the loon. The serenity of the wilderness and the indescribable sound of silence are among the many joys of life.
Such peace in a modern world, however, inevitably comes with noisy interruptions: Motorboats. Personal watercraft. Private seaplanes. Wake boats.
Construction noise. Power hammers. Chainsaws. Electric drills. Weed whackers. Leaf blowers. Electric hedge clippers. Gasoline lawn mowers. Air-conditioners. Motorcycles. Trucks. Traffic. Sirens. Fireworks. Outdoor music concerts. Car alarms.
This din can be harmful. Some sounds can cause hearing loss after only a few minutes. Others require prolonged exposure. Also worth considering is what such noise does to general stress and anxiety levels.
Most municipalities have noise bylaws to combat some of them, but how often are such laws enforced? And who does it?
How loud is that motorcycle, for example? Is that a manufacturer’s muffler or a custom exhaust pipe? Calls for stricter regulations and enforcement of such noisemakers have continued for decades, with little progress.
In Toronto, the noise bylaw is being reviewed as a result of a complaint last year from Mayor John Tory, who asked staff to consider best practices from other municipalities around the world, which use new technology and higher fines to combat motorcycle noise, among other rackets that exceed safe decibel levels.
But such efforts are only the beginning. After all, humanity is ever more addicted to the “conveniences” of modern life, and most of them are not exactly serene.
You may have chosen a cottage for its tranquil lake and majestic pines, but vacation homes are particularly attractive to the rich, and the rich can afford the sometimes noisy luxuries associated with them: Thundering wake-surfing boats have replaced canoes; whining personal watercraft have edged out the rowboat; and the overhead buzzing of personal float planes is ever more common.
Meanwhile, many well-to-do cottage owners often seem less than content with succumbing to the natural rhythms of life in the woods, and turn instead to endless renovations to keep the wilderness at bay. The result is a continuous symphony of hammering, sawing and sanding in cottage country that is becoming more iconic than a loon’s cry.
Back in suburbia, the weed whacker and leaf blower are now as ubiquitous as the lawn mower. Inside, we are assailed by a cacophony of washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers, hair dryers, electric shavers, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, smoothie makers, food processors, garbage disposers, mobile phones, televisions, game consoles and dozens of other modern conveniences, all of which contribute to the fact that hearing loss is on the rise worldwide.
It’s a complex genetic, demographic and medical issue, but simply put, many of us are exposed to too much noise.
Prolonged exposure to some noise — a leaf blower, for example, or the continued hammering of nails — can do damage to unprotected ears in a matter of minutes. A dishwasher, meanwhile, may not be a threat on its own, but when joined by the rest of the modern household orchestra, can start to take its toll.
What’s the solution? Better and more frequent ear protection is advisable. Newer technology to quickly and easily measure decibel levels of offenders will help. Stricter enforcement of noise bylaws by police and municipalities would help make things quieter.
But an awareness by everyone that we’re all making the world a noisier place with each passing year would likely be the best start. Is a leaf blower really more efficient or even easier than a rake? Is anyone reacting any more to that car alarm? Is the food processor actually better than a good, sharp knife?