Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Spring 2007 - page 3

Search for tranquillity

By Sally Pook

Finding tranquillity in modern life has become so difficult that even to look for it is liable to have the opposite effect. So the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has created a map revealing where one can find tranquillity and where one cannot. The CPRE looked for five components: seeing natural landscape, hearing birdsong, hearing peace and quiet, seeing natural-looking woodland and seeing the stars at night. On the opposite side of the coin were: hearing constant noise from traffic, seeing lots of people, urban development, and light pollution overhead, and hearing lots of people.

"It is true to say that within most counties, and even in London and the South East, you are able to find pockets of relative tranquillity— Epping Forest for example," said Neil Sinden, policy director of the CPRE.


"What alarms us is that you can only really find deeply tranquil places in the North, such as Cumbria and North Yorkshire, and in relatively small pockets in the South West such as Dart- moor."

Satellite data shows that from 1993 to 2000, the proportion of England from which people could view a truly dark night sky fell from 15 per cent to 11 percent. "It is quite clear that the pressure is growing," said Mr. Sinden.

"Much more effort must be made on a government level to recognise its value, before it becomes a disappearing as- set." The CPRE said that finding tranquillity in the countryside mattered deeply to people, contributing to their mental and physical health. To create the map, research- ers from Northumbria and Newcastle universities first consulted over 1,300 countryside users and visitors across England on their perceptions of tranquillity.

—The Weekly Telegraph

How a tide of noise is now drowning out the quiet life

By Tim Hall

Life in Newcastle is 100 times noisier than in Torquay, according to a noise map of England that warns of a growing health problem. Academics found street noise in Newcastle measured more than 80 decibels (dB)—a level the World Health Organisation lists as "unsuitable for human habitation." Not far behind Newcastle are London and Birmingham, where noise levels are high enough to cause severe stress, a weakened immune system, heart problems and tinnitus.

Farther down the list are "black spots" such as Coventry, Brighton and Plymouth, where noise levels, approaching 75 dB, are sufficient to cause sleepless nights and lowered productivity at work.

Of 41 urban areas, only Torquay comes close to tranquil, with an average decibel count of 60.2—calculated as 100 times quieter than Newcastle because decibels are a logarithmic index. But even 60 dB is above the limit health experts recommended for residential areas.


Deepak Prasher, the professor of audiology at University College London, drew up the map using traffic noise. He said: "Some of the places where I took readings, right next to houses, people have to shout to each other to make themselves heard. That environment is loud enough to cause chronic hearing problems."

Prof. Prasher said he was even more surprised to see relatively small towns like Doncaster and Gillingham—at numbers four to six in the list—featuring above Manchester and Liverpool.

"Even Brighton was only five decibels quieter than London," said Prof. Prasher. "It's not the image I had of Brighton—wandering along a quiet sea-front. It illustrates that traffic noise in England has spread throughout the country and through the night. There is no escape from it now."

Prof. Prasher said he found "pockets of tranquillity," such as a quadrangle in Oxford city centre. However, taking average readings over 20 minutes in each area, he was often shocked at the level of noise.

—The Weekly Telegraph

Possible crosswalk ban on iPods, Blackberries

New Yorkers who blithely cross the street listening to an iPod or talking on a cell-phone could soon face a $100 fine. New York senator Carl Kruger says three pedestrians in his Brooklyn district have been killed since September upon stepping into traffic while distracted by an electronic device. In one case bystanders screamed "watch out" to no avail. Kruger says he will introduce legislation to ban the use of gadgets such as Blackberry devices and video games while crossing the street. "Government has an obligation to protect its citizenry," Kruger said.


"This electronic gadgetry is reaching the point where it's becoming not only endemic but it's creating an atmosphere where we have a major public safety crisis at hand."
Tech-consuming New Yorkers trudge to work like an army of drones, appearing to talk to themselves on wireless de- vices or swaying to seemingly silent tunes. "I am not trying to intrude on that," Kruger said. "But what's happening is when they're tuning into their iPod or Blackberry or cell- phone or video game, they're walking into speeding buses and moving automobiles. It's becoming a nationwide problem."

—Reuters / 24Hours

Entire contents © 2007 Right to Quiet Society. Cartoon © 1996 Right to Quiet Society
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