Photo credit: Johannes Plenio from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report on CNN Travel discusses the efforts of Quiet Parks International to preserve the last remaining quiet places on the planet.

For a place to meet QPI’s’ selection criteria, there can’t be more than one audible sound from a human source every 15 minutes. Quiet urban parks have less stringent criteria, allowing for some transportation noise.

I disagree with QPI sound recordist Matt Mikkelson, who said, “[w]hen an airplane flies over and the grouse is trying to call, they’re competing for space on the frequency spectrum. The grouse and the airplane interrupt each other.”

I doubt that the grouse is interrupting the airplane, or even the passengers and crew on the airplane. But the airplanes noise definitely interferes with the male grouse’s mating call, made by beating its wings against the air, in the same frequency band as the jet’s engine noise.

That’s the problem with noise. It interrupts human activity and interferes with animals in their natural habitats.

Why is quiet important? As the article says, “This is having a troubling effect. In humans, noise pollution has been linked to cardiovascular disease, mental health problems and cognitive impairment in children. In wildlife, it’s disrupting navigation, mating rituals, communication and can cause hearing loss.”

The National Park Service noise maps show that without anthropogenic noise, nature is quiet, ranging from 20-40 A-weighted decibels (dBA).

I personally have recorded nighttime sound levels at or just below 30 dBA in Wupatki National Park in Sri Lanka, at Lake Vyrny in Wales, and in the Swiss Alps.

We should encourage efforts like those of QPI in our own communities. Since most noise is dependent on fossil fuel use, a quieter world will be a cleaner and healthier world for all the planet’s inhabitants.