Is there any good that may come from this pandemic?

Photo credit: Agung Pandit Wiguna from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Is there anything at all good about the COVID-19 pandemic? There’s an old saying that every cloud has a silver lining, but it’s hard to find one in this global health and financial storm.

But as people self-quarantine or shelter in place, and road traffic and aircraft traffic decreases, the streets, highways, and skies are noticeably quieter. The air is cleaner, too. And that’s good, even if it reflects a problem.

In these moments of quiet, perhaps we can rediscover the simple pleasures of reading a book, or gardening, or walking in a park (at least 6 feet away from others, to be sure), and think of earlier times when quiet was the norm.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Comments (4)

  1. Michael

    You wrote “in these moments of quiet, perhaps we can rediscover the simple pleasures of reading a book etc”
    Unfortunately this is not the case in our situation. We had neighbour noise peaking only a few minutes ago at 85dba. We are responsible having been self isolated completely for the last four days and do not have the Coronavirus. The Police do not take neighbour noise seriously. We are being punished for self isolating and this threatens the ability of my wife, who lectures undergraduate and post graduate students, to work from home.
    I have mentioned Professor Weinhold’s research into neighbour noise “Sick of Noise: the Health Effects of Loud Neighbours and Urban Din” before on silencity.com which found:
    “Overall we find surprisingly strong and robust effects of residential noise annoyance on a variety of health outcomes, including cardio-vascular symptoms, auto-immune conditions associated with joint and bone disease, headache, and fatigue. The relationship is not only statistically significant but also of a meaningful magnitude.”
    Neighbour noise will have an impact on your ability to fight infections like Coronavirus and the flu.
    We need to be kind to one another in these difficult times.
    Although admirable, in Italy, with people singing from their balconies to keep their spirits up, how about the people trying to sleep who are sick or read a book in peace?
    You made this point at the start of this article.
    Although everybody has the right to life, apparently everybody does not have the right to sleep, relax, respite and study.
    Living in an individualistic society, with everybody having the right to make noise being enshrined in law presents a problem .
    This dismal failure in policy in focusing on individual needs for liberty and freedom in my opinion will be responsible for thousands of needless deaths around the world.
    When the head of the Chinese Red Cross delegation held a press conference in Italy a few days ago he was astounded at the lax lockdown situation and could not believe all economic activity had not stopped. https://twitter.com/time/status/1240889102804889600?s=21
    We only have our health.
    Apologies for going a bit off topic.
    Good health to all.

    Reply
  2. Daniel Fink

    Michael:

    Sorry that your situation isn’t quieter than it was before the COVID pandemic. If there are city ordinances, call the appropriate authority. If they refuse to intervene, try going higher in the chain of command. Try to get media publicity. And maybe ask your neighbors for quiet at least when your wife has to give a lecture? A polite request might work if the hours are limited.

    In English common law there is a “right to quiet enjoyment”, which is the right of a tenant not to be disturbed without notice by the landlord. I have proposed creation of a statutory “right to quiet”, which would help you and your wife now, but my proposal hasn’t gotten anywhere.

    Best of luck in handling your difficult situation. I don’t have any more than that to offer.

    Dan

    Daniel Fink MD

    Reply
  3. Michael

    Thank you for taking the time with your advice, care and understanding.
    Having spoken to five politicians, local, state and federal, face to face in the last twelve months, I’m not holding my breath, but we’re not going to give up.
    We’ve also spoken to lawyers, the Council, the owners, the residents and the building manager with no solution in sight.
    Few people understand neighbour noise and it’s profound health impacts.
    We can use the pandemic to raise awareness of the importance of health especially when isolated at home with no alternative.
    Also the importance of research in health.
    Keep up the good work in helping to expose the dangers of noise to human health.

    Best wishes

    Michael

    Reply
  4. Daniel Fink MD

    Michael

    Yes, rules including the informal rules we call manners exist to help people know how to live together in harmony. When I lived in the City of Los Angeles I fought an inappropriate museum development on land zoned for single family homes, and that was the point I made. When the museum acquired that land, it knew the land was zoned for residences, as did the people who lived there for decades before.

    We lost the zoning battle but were able to get “Conditions” imposed that made it economically unfeasible for the museum to expand. The timing coincided with the 2008 Great Recession, too. So the project is approved but 12 years later hasn’t been built.

    When people are “confined to quarters” because of the COVID pandemic, making people follow these rules becomes even more important because 1) those who can are working from home, and 2) we are all in this together, and must make sacrifices big and small to be able to get through this.

    So perhaps you can make that point, repeatedly and forcefully, to your noisy neighbors and the various authorities.

    Good luck.

    Dan

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *