Why We Should Be Mindful of Noise

How many times have we heard people talk about all the birdsong they have been able to hear during the Covid-19 lockdown? Suddenly, without the aircraft and traffic noise, all the vibrancy of spring has leapt out at us like a 3D movie. As restrictions have eased, I have felt a sense of loss and also a sense of being lost. 

Over the spring I have found great solace in the garden and especially in the birdsong. Some elements of life have gone on – spring has unfolded in all its glory, blissfully unaware that the human race has been in the grips of this virus – or maybe even boosted by this and our sudden absence from the spaces we “share” with nature. 

I have had issues with anxiety for as long as I can remember. I would often notice that, if there was a lot of noise, I would be desperate for it to stop. I could not be alert to any potentially useful sounds while loud music was playing, for example. It is interesting to reflect that I was wanting to use my hearing to protect my child, given the world we now live in. Clearly this is a biological instinct rather than any rational thought. 

I have realised that many animals need to be able to hear to stay safe and to catch prey. Human noises drown out so much of nature. Animals are increasingly having to occupy places where there is considerable noise at most times of the day. I heard recently that some birds actually change their song – they simplify it – to be heard over the noise in cities.

It has made me wonder if we should be thinking about having quiet zones – times and places where we can have respite from the noise. I feel certain this would help people as well as animals.

For now, I have to accept this loss, deepened by the sounds of hedge trimmers and chainsaws before the birds have fledged the nest. Feeling lost is a good thing. I can choose whether to find the old path or forge a new, perhaps quieter, one.  

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