by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The first Earth Day took place exactly 52 years ago, April 22, 1970. The environmental movement was still in its infancy, kickstarted by Rachel Carson’s 1962 New Yorker article Silent Spring, which was published as a book later in the year. We learned from Carson that all the economic developments and technological advances of the postwar period weren’t unalloyed goods, and that they were wreaking havoc on the environment.

The National Environmental Policy Act became law on January 1, 1970, and President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency by executive order later in the year.

Noise had been recognized as a public health hazard in 1968 and the Noise Control Act was signed into law in 1972. As the NCA stated:

The Congress declares that it is the policy of the United States to promote an environment for all Americans free from noise that jeopardizes their health or welfare. To that end, it is the purpose of this Act to establish a means for effective coordination of Federal research and activities in noise control, to authorize the establishment of Federal noise emission standards for products distributed in commerce, and to provide information to the public respecting the noise emission and noise reduction characteristics of such products.

The promise of the law remains unfulfilled. Unfortunately, the EPA’s Office of Noise Abatement and Control was defunded during the Reagan administration and little has been done to control noise since then.

In the 50 years since the Noise Control Act was passed, we have learned that noise isn’t just a nuisance but that noise is harmful to humans and animals. And because it affects insects, noise even affects plants.

Whether your belief system centers on a god, Mother Nature, Charles Darwin, or on Earth Day, Mother Earth, without anthropogenic noise, nature is quiet. The National Park Service Noise maps show this.

We’re not sure how much noise will be mentioned in today’s Earth Day celebrations, but on this year’s Earth Day want to make the point that a quieter world will be a healthier and better world for all.