Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Winter 2014, page 6

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Founder of the Right to Quiet Society - Obituary

John Edward Beltz   June 23, 1923 - October 31, 2013

A teacher and a lawyer, John led a rich and varied life. John was passionate about the environment. He founded the Right to Quiet Society for Soundscape Awareness and Protection in 1982, at a time when few were aware of acoustic pollution. He was also active in the establishment of Friends of Cypress Provincial Park Society, and called for action against coal-bed methane gas extraction in the Similkameen Valley, amongst others. As a child John lived in Indonesia and became fluent in Dutch and Indonesian. He attended high school in Lausanne, Switzerland, where schooling was in French and where he learned German as well. He returned to Vancouver at the outbreak of World War II to complete high school and went on to UBC. After graduating from UBC in 1943 John joined the US navy. He was assigned to Indonesia in 1945 where his language skills in Dutch and Indonesian were invaluable.  An exciting early life!

While John loved to travel in Europe, in Germany and France in particular, he was also happy to be “at home” in North Vancouver and in Princeton. Until the last few years he walked, preferably uphill, every day. John was pre-deceased this year by his brother Bill Beltz. John leaves to mourn his sons Gerrie and Rolf, his daughter Janet and her children; Lyn, his loving and loved partner for 24 years, her children Ilga, Ieva, Arvid and her grandchildren; relatives and friends.

A memorial for family and friends was held on Sunday, November 17 at 2:30 PM at Lynn Valley Library Community Meeting Room: 1277 Lynn Valley Rd., North Vancouver. 

Donations in John’s memory may be made to the Right to Quiet Society or to Friends of Cypress Provincial Park Society.

New Year’s Eve racket witnessed in Berlin

Berlin, January 6, 2014

After surviving the event and the days before it, I should tell you that if you ever consider visiting Berlin, remember to avoid it around New Year's Eve. This year the event attracted 3/4 million visitors. We were very far from them and the 6,000 official rockets at the Brandenburg Gate, but from early evening our neighbourhood was like a war zone. Last year a rocket landed on our little balcony. The clouds of smoke at midnight are so thick that stepping outside is not a viable option. This year there were 450 fires overnight.

Illegal fireworks were already detonating on the previous day. Easily recognized by their far greater noise level than the permitted products (120 dB at different distances for different categories), they are also very dangerous. De-spite warnings in the media there were over 100 serious accidents in Berlin (lost fingers, a severed hand, burns). Although German fireworks sales have remained steady at 115 million euros per year (yes), hospitals report the number of accidents increasing yearly.

Now we're in the clean-up phase; it takes the waste management service several weeks to remove the many tons of garbage (wood, plastic, cardboard) across the city. In the last few days, at least three children have been hospitalized in Berlin after finding unexploded devices and being burned when they exploded in their hands.

Elsewhere in Germany it's much the same, but there were also several fatal accidents. Why such a supposedly progressive and environmentally aware society allows all of this, I don't understand. Then again, the battle against smoking in public here is just approaching the point we had reached in Canada in the late 1970s.

Sadly, the media reports rarely mention the noise, except for its traumatic effect on domestic animals and wildlife. Nonetheless, Berlin is a fantastic city, and for good reasons it's now the top tourist destination in Germany. So, go if you ever get the chance.

Happy New Year!

- Karl Raab

Extremely Loud: Sound as a Weapon

Book review by Juliette Volcler, Author, and Carol Volk, Translator

In this disturbing and wide-ranging account, acclaimed journalist Juliette Volcler looks at the long history of efforts by military and police forces to deploy sound against enemies, criminals, and law-abiding citizens. During the 2004 battle over the Iraqi city of Fallujah, U.S. Marines bolted large speakers to the roofs of their Humvees, blasting AC/ DC, Eminem, and Metallica songs through the city’s narrow streets as part of a targeted psychological operation against militants that has now become standard practice in American military operations in Afghanistan. In the historic center of Brussels, nausea-inducing sound waves are unleashed to prevent teenagers from lingering after hours.

High-decibel, “nonlethal” sonic weapons have become the tools of choice for crowd control at major political demonstrations from Gaza to Wall Street and as a form of torture at Guantanamo and elsewhere.

In an insidious merger of music, technology, and political repression, loud sound has emerged in the last decade as an unlikely mechanism for intimidating individuals as well as controlling large groups. Extremely Loud documents and interrogates this little-known modern phenomenon, exposing it as a sinister threat to the “peace and quiet” that societies have traditionally craved.

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Entire contents 2014 Right to Quiet Society. Cartoon, 1996, Right to Quiet Society

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