The Urban Soundscape (and why we should care about poor people’s shit)Posted: July 30, 2012
Bernie Krause’s New York Times Op-ed “The Sound of a Damaged Habitat” gave me chills it was so good a (short!) read. Somehow, Krause gets away with describing the sounds of birds and bugs as an “orchestra,” and it doesn’t come off as cheesy. Damn! As a writer I am impressed.
What freaked me the fuck out, however, was how important sound – noise, din, the daily racket, whatever you want to call it- is, to things that are living.
Rereading that sentence makes me want to go “duh:” it should be a no-brainer that animals don’t like loud noises and we can tell a lot about a habitat by the sounds we hear in it. As Krause pointed out, however, “too little research has been done in the field of biophonics” so running around saying “duh” to the research that has been done wouldn’t be encouraging to any scientist, I suppose.
The part that made me think about life in a city:
A 2001 study of elk and wolves in national parks found that snowmobile noise raised the levels of stress hormones in their feces and that the levels returned to normal concentrations when the intrusive din was absent.
So we know about the effects of stress, right? Stress can give you cancer, make you depressed, gain weight, kill your sex drive: all sorts of nasty things, nasty things it probably does to non-human animals too.
Notice how Krause wrote “instrusive din”?
Now, what about if that “instrusive din” was the city you lived in?
Police and ambulance sirens, gunshots, or maybe nothing that nefarious just the screeching of tires and traffic and people yelling. The sounds we hear every day effect our physical and physiological health, that much is obvious. Now what about… the wealthy soundscape versus the poor inner city soundscape?
Woah. I did not want to get socio-economical, but it can’t be helped. This is an election year, and the unemployed have been occupying Wall Street for almost a year now.
I’d like to think no one needs to collect the poop of a working class family living in a horrible neighborhood in order to prove they have a harder life than their rich counter-parts, but again, given the political climate, one can’t be too sure.
Maybe then the next time some politician demonizes the poor or someone on welfare, an aide can point to this noise-stress-shit study and say “No, look, they DO need healthcare, and funding for public schools, and social programs. Why? Because look at their shit. Their shit doesn’t lie, their life fucking sucks!” Or something.
Knowing how policy has been working lately though, I wouldn’t be surprised if said politician just said, “Let’s just install megaphones in the poor neighborhoods and blare classical music instead of all those programs! That should improve their quality of living!”