Noise Pollution

Dear Margaret,
How can I reduce the amount of noise I have to put up with. I now have to live in the city, after living in the country for a long time. It has become unbearable in the years I've been away, there's seems to be no peace anywhere.

Oh, how I sympathise! I was in a similar situation back in 1989, when I returned to the city. It's a tough one. Actual reduction of noise at it's source is difficult. While it is possible to take action over some issues, such as excessive industrial noise, any such action is stressful, & often only partially successful. Most noise is not legally excessive - it's the numerous sources of noise: road, rail & air traffic, household, garden & industrial machinery, amplified music, slamming doors, & raised voices, which combine to cause us such distress.
So we need to concentrate on reducing the effects of noise.
If you have your own place, a solid masonry wall of suitable height can considerably reduce the effects of traffic noise. Replacing corrugated, or other sheet metal fencing, with almost anything else, but particularly with organic materials, is extremely helpful. Metal fences not only amplify ambient noise, but the effect when it is struck by balls, tools, or water from a hose is horrible. Insulating your walls & ceilings will help. In fact most of the strategies designed to save energy in the home can also assist to reduce the effects of noise.
Because I live in public housing, few of these options are open to me, but in the time I've been here I have learnt a lot of tricks.
Plant shrubs & trees like bamboo & casuarina, which rustle in the breeze. Attract birds bees & butterflies to your garden by planting both native & exotic flowering & fruiting trees. Have one or two water features, such as fountains or cascades. They not only sound wonderful, but also attract birds, & maybe even frogs.Place wind chimes or bells near doors & windows. Invest in some CD's or tapes of ambient & environmental sounds.

However, the essential thing about all these strategies is that you have to learn to shift your focus from the noise to the pleasant sounds in the personal environment you have created. It does require practice, but if you spend 2 or 3 minutes several times a day listening exclusively to pleasant sounds , you will soon find yourself doing it effortlessly, & almost continuously. The noise is still there, but you have learned to tune into a station of your own choice & creation. The trick is to remember to focus only on what you want to hear. If you try to shut out the noise, it will only become more intrusive, because by trying to shut it out, you are actually paying attention to it.
Another interesting thing is that if we present our other senses with pleasant stimuli, it really helps. Look at lovely things - that's why the butterflies are important. You can find beauty everywhere if you really look. Wear clothes which feel as well as look good, & fill your garden, workplace & home with fresh herbs or perfumed flowers. Use natural oils instead of scent, & use them in an oil burner. Take a little posy of herbs or a scented rose with you when going out, & use it to revive your life-force.(Don't forget to thank it & return it to the soil when it withers.) Learn to relax. Maintain a vibrant state of health by eating the freshest & best tasting foods you can get. Get high on the smell of fresh coffee, the fragrance of good teas, the aroma of baking bread, & home-made soup. Take your exercise in natural surroundings. Make sure the people & activities in your personal life are the ones you want to have there. Be a pleasure guerilla - secretly giving small unexpected pleasures to those around you. Becoming the person you really are is the very best protection, not only against unwanted noise, but also other forms of pollution.
I promise you - if you become sufficiently involved in enjoying a butterfly, you won't even notice the 747 overhead!

Addendum - 27th.December 1999 - The level of public concern about noise pollution is rising - when I searched 'Yahoo' (enter noise+pollution), I found 1 category, 35 sites & 6469 web pages! Even discounting the pop groups who have used this as a title, you should find something helpful!


Note:In researching & answering questions about earthwise living, Margaret offers information, opinion, & personal experience, but no quick fixes! Readers should evaluate these offerings in the context of their own situations; they are suggestions, *not* recommendations. Any responsibility for their implementation rests *solely* with the reader.


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