Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Fall 2015, page 6

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Noise pollution complaints prompt city meeting

City wants to modernize noise bylaws without deterring development

Is Toronto too noisy? That's the question a public meeting organized by the city is tackling at a series of public meetings. The city organized the public meetings about noise pollution after a survey found 82.5 per cent of Torontonians are upset with how loud their neighbourhood has become and 54.4 per cent of those people have filed a noise complaint at some point. Among the biggest offenders: construction noise, amplified sound from concerts and traffic noise, particularly from delivery trucks and motorcycles. "We've had an increase of over 300 percent in complaints on noise complaints, over 700 per cent increase on complaints related to construction," said Carlton Grant, of the city's municipal standards department.

After CBC Toronto reached out to people across the city to share their noise woes, several posted various complaints. In Parkdale, Petrina Andonova said low flying helicopters as well as partygoers are the worst offenders. Jeremy Lootsma, who lives in Etobicoke, said his neighbourhood has a big difficulty with dirt bike riders who illegally rip along the nearby Etobicoke Creek trails. In Mimico, there were complaints about big trucks operating outside of the 7 a.m.-7 p.m. window. While at Front-Spadina, loud motorcycles were an issue. Grant said the city needs to "modernize" its bylaws covering noise, but said it has to find the right balance. The city wants deliveries and development to happen, he said, but also wants people to "enjoy their space."

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Are there any places on earth left untouched by noise pollution?

A chance thunderstorm was the inspiration for Gordon Hempton's career as the Sound Tracker

By Victoria Jaggard

Listen up, because you never know when a sound will change your life.

In this podcast episode from Generation Anthropocene, acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton shares the story of how he became the Sound Tracker, an unorthodox career choice that has seen him circle the globe three times over in pursuit of the planet's last pristine soundscapes.

As Hempton tells it, he was driving from Seattle to Madi-son, Wisconsin to take up graduate studies in plant pathol-ogy. Somewhere along the way, he pulled over to rest in a field, and what he heard pointed his life in a new direction.

"Hearing the thunder define the far reaches of the valley, I didn't even have to turn my head or do anything. I just laid on the ground and watched the storm develop and pass over me and drench me, and ... I guess you could say that was my baptism," Hempton says. "And when it was all over, I only had one question which was, how could I be 27 years old and have never truly listened before?"

Since then Hempton has made recordings in rainforests, grasslands, mountaintops and even under the sea trying to capture what he calls the solar-powered jukebox that is planet Earth. You can hear some of his favorite audio clips, as well as the stories behind them, in the full episode.

As with the kinds of pollution we can see, smell and taste, Hempton worries that many human-caused noises are negatively affecting the environment around us, drowning out the subtle aural cues that all animals use to navigate the world.

"Sound is information, information that could be very relevant to your survival," he says. "Whether it's to find food, prosperity, or to avoid predation, it's so dangerous to un-plug from this constant news and information flow that coverings of the ears, similar to eyelids, or coverings of the eyes, never evolved. Not once do we find in the fossil record the presence of earlids."

So what kinds of life are most affected by noise pollution, and what can we do about it? Are there any places left on Earth where you can have a noise-free experience? Listen to the full episode to find out.

www.smithsonian.com, September 15, 2015

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