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Noise Isn't Just Annoying -- It's Bad for Your Health

We have changed what our planet sounds like. Yet there seems to be little understanding of just how seriously noise is threatening our natural world -– and us.

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Biologists have found that some birds in urban areas are finding it hard to hear each other and their young, which impairs chicks’ growth, as they are less likely to be fed, leading to a decline in their numbers. In forests and deserts and plains a range of animals from gleaning bats to frogs to the endangered pronghorns in Arizona’s Sonoran desert are abandoning their habitats in order to escape the noise of chainsaws and low-flying jets. The situation might be even worse under water. Ocean noise has been increasing by about three decibels every decade in the past 50 years due to sonar blasts by navies, shots from air guns used in deep-sea oil and gas exploration, and the thrum of cruise and freight ships. The cacophony disorients and sometimes leads to the death of marine animals, especially whales and dolphins, that rely on their acute and highly specialized hearing for communication, navigation, and detecting predators.

As even the most remote forests and the deepest depths of the oceans are invaded by humanity’s rumble, our world’s natural sound rhythms are going mute. Krause says: “A great silence is spreading over the natural world even as the sound of man is becoming deafening.”

Stay tuned for an in-depth audio report on noise pollution by the Journal and Making Contact at  www.radioproject.org.

 

Maureen Nandini Mitra is managing editor of Earth Island Journal.
 
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