It’s Time to Shut down the Powertool Orchestra

The Case Against Leaf Blowers by SingerDeath to the Powertool Orchestra!

There’s a denial around noise and its health aspects in our world. One example of this is a neighbor of mine who insists on locking her new car with a key fob that sets off a loud beep of the horn (these can often be disconnected). Sometimes she does this with her grandchildren near the car. This is a danger to their hearing. The disconnect between the amount of noise she’s creating and the harm it’s doing to herself, her grandchildren and the calm of the neighborhood is what I want to talk about today. 

A friend and I used to joke about the powertool orchestra. We even thought it might be funny to create such a group and bring the project to Burning Man. I’m sure you have had experience with this orchestra – it features leaf blowers, weed-wackers and edgers, lawn mowers and nail guns. Just when you think the chipper will stop to make some space for quiet the pressure washer starts up. Who thinks this cavalcade of noise is a good thing. I’m pretty sure it’s terrible for our society’s hearing, but it also causes stresses in so many other ways. Especially during a time when many of us are still in lockdown at home it would be a good time to reconsider how much noise we’re all making with power tools, car horns and even our voices.

Yeah, I’m going to go there. It’s fantastic that people are getting more exercise these days by simply walking or biking in the neighborhood. It’s really a lovely sight. But do we have to do it while having conversations on the phone or with each other at the top volume of our voices? Where is the subtlety? Where is the privacy? Also, there’s usually no need to talk loudly on cellphones or zoom – people can hear you if you speak in a normal tone of voice. Now if people were wandering around singing I might have a different take on it. Lastly,the idling of vehicles. 

Not only is idling engines wasteful it’s also loud. With our quarantine there has been a vast increase in package delivery happening. I’d love to encourage everyone to speak to the drivers of these services to get them to turn off their vehicles when they are making a delivery. And that goes for all of us – if you’re going to be stopped for more than 10 seconds, turn off your engine. Ready to go somewhere? – start your engine and go! If you want to stop climate change, stopping engine idling will save us millions of barrels of oil each year + help keep carbon out of the atmosphere thus maybe giving us a chance to stave off the climate crisis by a few more years.

Thanks for listening. I’d like to share a quieter world with you. One in which we all get to hear the music for our whole lives. One in which the sound of birds and music fill the air – not the sounds of motors. Join me, won’t you? Consider your own relationship to noise. How much are you making? Can you do anything to make a little less?  Talk to your neighbors or send them a postcard if you’d like to continue staying physically distant. Let’s work together to make a quieter world. We can make a change and every move in this direction will make our lives calmer and more spacious.

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