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What other initiatives have been implemented in the following years? By participating in the International Noise Awareness Day held annually in April, members have distributed pamphlets to citizens and various organizations and promoted a 60 second quiet time on that day to highlight the importance of quiet. They have also connected to other parts of the world where like-minded people share the aims of the Vancouver-based Society; the April 1996 NEWSLETTER published an article from a Polish newspaper on the problem of excessive noise, especially in large cities. On the Right to Quiet Society's 15th anniversary, Hans Schmid, Vice-President, commented that "... we did succeed in contributing to a growing awareness about the soundscape and its rapidly increasing pollution by many types of noise ..."
In the spring of 1998, the Society published a useful handbook called "What You Can Do About Noise in British Columbia" which was distributed to all public libraries of B.C. and public officials, including all MLA's. Still, as former President Peter Donnelly remarked in the fall of 1999, "At the Federal and Provincial levels, politicians refuse to view noise as an environmental and health issue." Although some progress has been made, it is still a current challenge. Another disappointing reality is that many environmental protection organizations are completely unconcerned about noise issues, perhaps not realizing the fact that the soundscape is an indispensable, integral component of the environment. Another significant fact is that people are living longer and that they are also living ever more closely to one another. Growing population density spawns increasing noise problems.
However, in succeeding years there have been some worthwhile achievements. For example, in 2002, a Legal Assistance Fund was established by the Society, offering a grant or loan to assist people with noise problems in litigation expenses. Subsequently, a Courtenay couple was awarded funding for the legal pursuit of a case against North Island College for excessive noise. In April 2004, President Hans Schmid appeared on CBC's radio open-line program, Almanac, to answer listeners' questions about their noise difficulties. Over time there were other interviews with radio and TV-stations, all generating more public awareness. In the Fall of 2009, the Right to Quiet Society Board decided to purchase 80 copies of a recently published book and attached CD, called "One Square Inch of Silence", with 61 copies being donated to a selection of B.C. Public Libraries, as was done with several other relevant books in preceding years.
There is an ever expanding correspondence via mail and the Internet between noise abatement organizations in other countries and the Right to Quiet Society. President Hans Schmid also responds to numerous info-requests from countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, North and South America.
In the 2010 Fall NOISELETTER, it was noted that literary reviews were published in the New York Times about three new books on the topic of noise, drawing attention to the fact that modern society is finally giving some attention to this serious global problem. Important excerpts from these books were highlighted by a Society member.
It was encouraging to read an article in The Vancouver Sun in October 2010 by columnist Douglas Todd, in which he vigorously deplored loud music in stores and restaurants, calling for a "quiet revolution". As well, CBC Radio host Michael Enright, on his January 2, 2011 Sunday Morning national program strongly condemned restaurants that play deafening music; great media encouragement to spread the message!
On the other hand, it was regrettable that Vancouver City Council voted to relax the noise-control bylaw to accommodate more noise during the Olympic Winter Games in February 2010. It also facilitated the Vancouver Police Department's purchase of a "hailer," an acoustic hailing device for crowd control, which can also be used as a weapon capable of emitting loud blasts potentially damaging to hearing.
In 2011, the Right to Quiet Society attempted to curb loud disturbances caused by commercial and pleasure boats plying the waters along many populated Vancouver beaches. Hans Schmid wrote to Federal Minister of Transport, Mr. Chuck Strahl, since ship traffic falls under federal jurisdiction. The minister referred Hans to the Canadian Marine Advisory Committee, the City of Vancouver, and the vessel operators. After attending the Canadian Marine Advisory Council meeting, Board member Karl Raab was told to contact other coastal communities on both coasts to get their co-operation for a concerted effort. This advice will be pursued in future.
In conclusion, there have been many worthwhile endeavours and some achievements in the war against noise over the past thirty years. Yet, much remains to be done. However, it is very encouraging to know that we now have the support of many similar organizations around the world working diligently for this important cause of preventing and abating detrimental noise.
By Carole A. Martyn