Mixed Greens Blog

Mixed Greens Blog
Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest

16
September
2009

Desperately Seeking Silence

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Is it just me being cranky or has Seattle gotten much noisier? Not that we need one more thing to worry about but city noise is starting to take a toll on me. I’m reluctant to even bring it up since you may not have been aware of it. It’s the kind of thing that’s hard to tune out once you’ve noticed it. I know summer amplifies everything especially if you’re attempting to sleep with the windows open. Are you dreaming about a future I-5 filled with nearly silent electric cars? I am.

During the summer heat wave, DOT scheduled grinding on the freeway near our house. They’d begin around 11:30 PM and continue until the wee hours of the morning. After a couple of nights of this, I called and spoke to the Noise Abatement Coordinators at the Dept. of Planning and Development. The person I spoke with was very responsive and even told me to call him at any hour of the night so he could go and check it out. It turns out there’s not much we can do about it. Work on the freeway must go on at night during the summer for obvious reasons. A day or two later I received a call from the DOT asking for my address to send me some complimentary earplugs. No, I’m not kidding.

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There are plenty of ways we can control the noise we subject ourselves and our neighbors to. If you work on a construction site, don’t assume the neighbors want to hear Classic Rock in addition to your power tools. In general Seattle drivers are pretty darn polite and rarely honk their horns. But what’s with the car remote that beeps the horn every time you lock the doors? Leaf blowers, weed whackers, hedge trimmers, hand tools, even hair dryers — they’re all offenders we can use with much more discretion. Investing in an electric lawnmower will help with both air and noise pollution. And we all know how much Seattleites love their dogs…. dare I say “Sleepless in Seattle” seems to be taking on a whole new meaning. Someone, please press the mute button.

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I know I’m not the only one who feels like I have to get out of the city to take a break from all the noise. Our birds have been forced to sing louder and louder just to be heard by potential mates. Ornithologists have observed changes in pitch, timing and duration of their songs. Although some birds may be able to adjust to the increase in noise levels, eventually there may be two different species — rural and urban/suburban. Even outside the city noise is increasing. The songs of whales and dolphins are being disturbed by human-made noise to such an extent that they become disoriented and unable to communicate. Sometimes it feels like we’re all in one big noisy restaurant, yelling and still not able to hear each other.

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Sorry to subject you to my noisy rant. Fairly often I get a chance to get out in nature where all I have to deal with is an occasional airplane overhead. Even so, finding a place that’s completely devoid of man-made noise is getting more and more difficult. If silence does still exist, can you tell me where to find it?


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1 Responses »

  1. We have, in the past two years, noticed a huge increase in the number of airplanes flying over our house. Some are louder than others. In the last ten minutes I have heard 3 planes fly overhead. We also hear the news helicopters over I-5 tracking traffic accidents.