The 'Silent Threat' of Noise

The world is becoming a noisier place. Whether it's the roar of jet aircraft, the steady hum of vehicles on our crowded roads or the irritating (and often early morning) whine of lawnmowers in our neighbors' backyards, as the population grows, so does noise.

A form of pollution, higher noise levels increase the stress that we all feel already. Even at a relatively low level, chronic noise has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular problems, lost sleep and nervous disorders..

As much as possible, communities should be protected from the impact of noise pollution. Some noise, such as that of high volume aircraft, can be reduced by changing the location, in this case the flight path. Automobiles and other vehicle engines could perhaps be redesigned.

To address these problems, the "Quiet Communities Act of 1997" has been introduced in Congress by Rep. David Skaggs, D-Boulder. and Sen. Robert Toricelli, D-NJ. Its intent is three-fold:
Reestablish an EPA office of Noise Abatement, which was de-funded during the Regan era;
study ways of noise impact analysis that take into account the effects felt in quiet areas, such as parks and wilderness; and
research and report ways to reduce or redirect noise, especially from aircraft and airports.

The bill is aimed at the Federal Aviation Administration, an agency that has seemed particularly indifferent to citizen complaints about aircraft noise in quiet environments.

What You Can Do: Write your representative (House Office Bldg., Washington, DC 20515) and senators (Senate Office Bldg., Washington, DC 20510), see Page 2 of this issue, to ask them to support this bill. Tell them your own pet peeves about noise and that the bill will help save nearly 40 million people from damaging exposure to noise. If you're in Skaggs's district, thank him for his leadership and concern.


by Giacomo Leopardi (translated by Eamon Grennan)

I've always loved this lonesome hill And this hedge that hides The entire horizon, almost, from sight. But sitting here in a daydream, I picture The boundless spaces away out there, silences Deeper than human silence, and unfathomable hush In which my heart is hardly a beat From fear. And hearing the wind Rush rustling through these bushes, I pit its speech against infinite silence- And a notion of eternity floats to mind, And the dead seasons, and the season Beating here and now, and the sound of it. So, In this immensity my thoughts all drown; And it's easeful to be wrecked in seas like these.