Noise and Light

     There was a time in my youth when I camped in the high mountains of winter, where the silence of the snow-bound world was so profound that I could hear it. In those days, the world around my hometown was even quiet, except for the songs of birds; the whispering of breezes; the gurgling of the river and little streams in which I fished; the rush of a waterfall; and the occasional, lazy-summer drone of a small, single-engine airplane plying the currents of the sky. But with every new labor-saving device that requires power, the world has gotten noisier, and one of the noisiest gadgets in my hometown today is the infernal leaf-blower. Whatever happened to the old-fashioned rake and broom?

 

A small, forest stream in which I caught many cutthroat trout as a youth.

     In fact, the world has gotten so noisy that it is even affecting habitats beneath the ocean waves, where an increasing volume of underwater noise is threatening the ability of many sea creatures to seek food, find mates, protect their young, and escape their predators. The effects of underwater noise might be liked to being in the middle of an acoustics maelstrom. In deep water, where marine animals rely on their sense of hearing, the noise is especially harmful.
     Noise from ships plying the seas, military and otherwise, scrambles the communication signals used by dolphins and whales and causes them to abandon traditional breeding grounds and change direction during migration. International shipping produces the most underwater noise pollution, but there are few regulations to control it. What will the world be like when silence is banished by technology? Will the ever-increasing noise penetrate deeply enough to disrupt the silence of our souls within even as it shatters the peace of silence without?
     In addition to the increasing noise, is the increasing light that is progressively stealing the night sky. As new people move into my hometown, new lights go on, and each new electric light dims that which is visible from the stars. The same is true with each new business and each new street light as the population grows, and the stars I saw in my youth are progressively disappearing into the pollution of artificial light.
     Now I must go into the mountains or the high desert steppe to see the Milky Way as I remember if from my youth. And I wonder what we're doing to the health of those creatures who evolved to live by night. What are we doing to our souls when all we have in the once-dark side of day is endless light?

© chris maser 2002. All rights reserved.

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