Noise and wildlife

NYC observes International Noise Awareness Day

Photo by Nicholas Santasier from Pexels

by Jeanine Botta, MPH, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

In 1996, the League for the Hard of Hearing, now the Center for Hearing and Communication, established the first Noise Awareness Day in New York City. Eventually Noise Awareness Day became International Noise Awareness Day, a day to raise global awareness about the effects of environmental noise on human health and well-being. Today that concern extends to the harms of human generated noise on wildlife.

This year, the 24th INAD will be observed around the world on April 24th. Members and friends of The Quiet Coalition will participate in multiple events that day.  One of these is Noise, Quietness, and the Healthy City, a day-long workshop at New York University featuring speakers, discussions, hearing screenings, and a sound walk. Registration is required, and you can register for each event or the entire day.

On April 20th, two members of The Quiet Coalition will lead an interactive program in observance of INAD at the Clarendon Library in East Flatbush, Brooklyn to introduce mobile phone apps as a means of contributing to “citizen science” – a way to empower people to address community noise, and to identify and preserve quiet places. Click here for to download the flyer.

And also on April 24th, volunteers from the Acoustical Society of America will hold a Science of Sound educational program at the Bedford Library in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Registration is not required, but is recommended. Click here for more information about this program.

Learn more about INAD events worldwide at the Center for Hearing and Communication and the Acoustical Society of America websites. More comprehensive historical information about INAD can be found in this Acoustics Today article.

Jeanine Botta serves on the Board of Directors of the Right to Quiet Society for Soundscape Awareness and Protection. She also serves on the International Noise Awareness Day committee of the Technical Committee on Noise within the Acoustical Society of America. Jeanine has worked as a patient educator since 2008, and has a background in public health research administration. She also maintains the Green Car Integrity blog, a meditation on cars, tech, and noise. 

 

Cicada season is coming, get out your earplugs!

Photo credit: This image by the Agriculatural Research Service of the U.S. Deapartment of Agriculture is in the public domain.

Patrick Cloonan, The Indiana Gazette, writes that warmer weather brings out noisy cicadas. The cicadas in question are magicicada septemdecim, or 17-year cicadas.  And yes, they are noisy, says Cloonan, who notes that cicadas think the sound made by power tools are other cicadas.  As a result, the cicadas may land on humans, who will, no doubt, freak out even though cicadas are harmless….and tasty, Cloonan adds.  Yes, animals and people eat cicadas.

So next time you hear the loud chirping of a tree full of cicadas, you might want to put a pot on.  Shouldn’t be hard to find them as they call you to dinner.

 

 

 

Ford designs noise-proof kennels for noise-hating dogs

Photo credit: Ford Europe

Ford has designed a noise-cancelling kennel aimed at easing the anxiety and fear dogs experience during fireworks displays. It’s attractive and no doubt achieves its goal, but it’s also an expensive piece of kit that will be out of reach for most dog owners.

So kudos to Ford for looking out for man’s best friend, but why don’t we protect all dogs by demanding quiet fireworks instead?

Suspicion confirmed: drones are “a noisy nuisance”

Photo credit: Pok Rie

We wrote back in January about a drone trial by Wing, a subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, in rural Australia wasn’t going quite the way Wing might have hoped. Long and short, the drones’ noise was so irritating that dog owners tried to avoid areas where they passed, people stopped using their yards, and the noise was triggering PTSD for some military veterans. Ouch!

Well, in response to the drone trial and the complaints it generated, an inquiry was formed.  And Wing can’t be happy with the submissions, which conclude that:

Household delivery drones are an invasive, under-regulated technology whose potential benefits to the ACT would not outweigh the disturbance to the local community and environment.

According to one of the 39 submissions, “the service had created angst in the community, exposed a lack of regulation of the evolving technology and caused disturbances to residents and local wildlife.” Additional submissions noted the loss of wildlife and birds in the area during the trial, while others raised concerns about “an invasion of privacy,” the “commercialisation of airspace” and “limited public information on the approval and regulation of the Google-backed company’s trial.”

A couple of positive submissions were made, including one which suggested drone delivery was an “environmentally friendly option,” and another from Wing’s consultant, AlphaBeta, which asserted that “delivery drones could have wide-reaching benefits for local businesses, consumers and the environment.”

But in the end, the majority of people responding to the inquiry expressed a negative view of the trial and “strong opposition to the service’s expansion.”

One thing we rarely see addressed in these drone delivery stories is this: what compelling need does drone delivery serve? All we see are fatter coffers for the Googles and Amazons of the world at the expense of consumers addicted to impulse buying.

 

Trump administration, oil companies threaten marine wildlife

Photo credit: Dr. Louis M. Herman for NOAA licensed under CC BY 2.0

Sarah Sloat, Inverse.com, writes about conservation activists fighting back against the Trump administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service “for issuing authorizations to five different companies allowing for ‘incidental harassment‘” of marine mammals as they survey the ocean floor in search of oil and gas off of the U.S.’s Atlantic coast. The authorizations are tied to five-year leases to explore and exploit the “potential 46 billion barrels of oil.”

So what will these companies do with the authorizations? They will first use seismic guns to search for the oil, and it’s the seismic guns that pose a real threat to marine wildlife.  Writes Sloat:

Seismic airguns are shot in pulses separated by 15 seconds: They can reach 260 decibels, but the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management prefers airguns reach 160 decibels, which is as loud as a jet taking off, and enough noise to rupture a human eardrum. Boats tow 12 to 48 airguns at a time, and their sonic bangs can be heard 2,500 miles away from the survey vessels. Here’s what seismic airguns sound like. [CAUTION: Lower your speaker volume before clicking.]

And Sloat cites Lindy Weilgart, Ph.D., a specialist in underwater noise pollution, who says there’s “’no longer any scientifically valid doubt’ that seismic airgun surveys pose a danger to marine life.” Weilgart added that the negative impacts of noise have been documented “in about 130 marine species, ranging from invertebrates to fish to whales.”

Click the first link to read the full story. It’s well worth your time, if for nothing else, to read about the bipartisan effort in congress to stop the seismic guns and impose a 10-year moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling.

Human noise threatens marine life

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Noise is a health hazard and a public health hazard, causing auditory disorders (hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis) and non-auditory health problems, including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and death.

This report by Jim Robbins in the New York Times discusses the hazards of noise for marine life. Noise hurts marine mammals, fish, and even plankton.

An evolutionary biology perspective is helpful in understanding why noise is a problem. Loud noise is rare in nature. All creatures on land or in the sea evolved in quiet. That is the natural state, for plants, animals, and humans.

It looks like all living things need quiet to thrive.

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.

Preserving the rainforest’s soundtrack

Photo credit: David Riaño Cortés from Pexels

MIchael J. Coren, Quartz, writes about bioacoustics, a burgeoning field that uses “microphones to capture the aural signature of an ecosystem’s inhabitants from its tiniest creatures to its resident humans.” The goal of bioacoustics is to “monitor biodiversity, on a budget, over vast areas of remote rainforest.” Coren writes about a recent paper in the journal Science, where the authors suggest that bioacoustics “could fill a critical gap for conservation projects” by monitoring the forest’s health after it’s been saved.

Click the link to listen to the recordings that accompany the piece.  Two of them are soundscapes of healthy forests, while the third is clear-cut jungle now worked as a palm oil plantation.  The difference in the range and loudness of sound is apparent.

 

It’s not just humans who can’t tolerate construction noise

Photo credit: Diana Silaraja

Pandas at the Edinburgh Zoo are being moved to shelter them from construction noise from a nearby site. Turns out pandas are particularly vulnerable to loud noise because they have ultrasonic hearing. And the Scottish government isn’t screwing around–they insisted on being informed if and when plans to move the pandas were approved by the city council because concerns about the pandas “could raise issues of national importance.”

If only U.S. city governments were so diligent in protecting the hearing of humans exposed to nonstop noise.

Fireworks banned on the Galapagos to protect wild life

Photo credit: Simon Matzinger from Pexels

DW.com reports that the government of Ecuador banned sales of most fireworks on the Galapagos Islands shortly before the new year to protect the “archipelago’s unique fauna.” The only fireworks exempted from the ban are those that produce light but not noise.  According to DW.com, conservationists said the sounds of fireworks exploding “cause elevated heart rates, nervous stress and anxiety among animals on the islands, which are home to several endemic species including iguanas and tortoises.”

Congratulations to Ecuador for taking the lead in protecting wild life. One hopes that other governments will follow its lead. But given that the DW.com article adds that Germany’s Environment Agency “urged people to refrain from private fireworks on New Year’s Eve…to help prevent a drastic increase in fine dust pollution,” maybe the bigger goal should be to protect all living things by banning all fireworks. Says DW.com:

The agency estimates that around 4,500 tons of fine dust are blown into the air all over Germany on New Year’s Eve, with levels on January 1 higher than at any other time during the year.

“This corresponds to about 15.5 percent of the amount of particulate matter emitted by road traffic each year,” [agency head Maria] Krautzberger said, referring to the miniscule pollutants that pose the greatest threat to human health.

We need to fundamentally address how we treat our environment and consider the implications of our way of living. Yes, people enjoy fireworks and it seems like innocent fun, but it isn’t. Many people are maimed by mishandling fireworks, the noise frightens animals, and the dust created with each explosion poses a serious threat to human health.

So kudos to Ecuador on its ban of noisy fireworks. Let’s hope it’s just the first of many steps leading to the end of an unnecessary and dangerous practice.

Just in time for New Year’s Eve

The Food and Drug Administration approves a drug that calms dogs afraid of fireworks and other loud noises. This is good news for pet owners who have tried–and failed–to deal with anxious pups.

Better news, of course, would be if every local government took the lead of Collecchio, Italy and mandated the use of quiet fireworks, which provide the display people love without the loud noise that torments man’s best friend. Gotta be cheaper than getting on the waiting list for Ford’s (yes the car company) kennel with noise-canceling technology.