Why Do We Hurt Ourselves and Each Other?

Leave the Leaves by DKG GraphicsWhy?

I spend a lot of time thinking about how to make my neighborhood and world a better place to live.  Sometimes I’m focused on climate change issue – big ticket items like population growth or stopping clear-cutting. But much of the time I think about how to make change happen on the local level. After years of planting trees; talking to neighbors about planting more trees and trying to figure out how to encourage more quiet and dark (less noisy things like amped up motorcycles; leaf blowers; car alarms and better outdoor lighting) – I’m coming up against something that’s confusing me. Knowing that some of our actions are going to harm ourselves and others why do we keep doing them?  Here are a couple examples.

Gas-powered leaf blowers and other gas-powered lawn and garden tools. AGZA

The above graphic from AGZA (American Green Zone Alliance) really spells out the problems and solutions in this area.  Given that we’ve known for years how polluting and noisy gas-powered leaf blowers are (one example) why do we continue to allow their use? And this is often something we do to ourselves. The person using the device is probably facing the most harm. Whether it’s a worker who uses a leaf-blower repeatedly, or someone using one once a year – in either case – that person is putting themselves at a health risk that is unnecessary. Join a group working on this issue.

Here’s an example from the noise department. Using one’s car fob to lock a vehicle – setting off the horn. At first this probably seemed convenient – but I hope that most people agree that it’s actually a nuisance and should never have been allowed to be developed by car companies. Most cars and trucks can be adjusted to stop this from happening. Hearing a car horn go off is usually a warning sound which used to be used by vehicle operators to indicate to others that there is some kind of emergency happening. Though the sound of a car horn going off is a nuisance for people in the vicinity – the person most harmed by the noise is the person closest to the sound. I’ve written about the dangers of losing one’s hearing before, here. If you love hearing music, let’s say – figure out how to dismantle this system for yourself. And, again, the question I posed at the opening – why, if we know that a system is harming our health, do we let it persist?

From the lighting department. The City of Portland is often an early adopter. We chose to switch to LED street lights a few years back but in our excitement chose lights that are too bright and glaring.  These new lamps make everything much too bright and make walking around at night less pleasurable than it used to be. They also make driving more hazardous as the lights also blind drivers. Why, when we know there’s an issue with these lamps didn’t we stop installing them once it became obvious they were too bright? And why do we keep them installed when there are better choices. This is true for residential lighting, as well.  If you walk outside of your house at night and can’t look at the lighting of your house for more than 10 seconds then please consider replacing the bulbs and/or fixtures you have to improve the experience for your neighbors. And, for yourself – because who is likely going to be seeing the lighting on your house most?  You.

Living in a quieter and darker place is good for all living creatures. Keeping all of our tree canopy standing which provides our oxygen would also be something we could do to make our lives better.  I love to think about my neighborhood and how our lives can be improved. I believe by paying attention to the ways we’re hurting ourselves and others and making changes to our behavior we’ll create a healthier and happier environment. Who knows, maybe we’ll be able to see more stars one day.

For a better world, Albert Kaufman, 3.5.19


Turn off Your Car Horn – Less Beeping = Less Noise

Disconnect Your Horn

Here’s something that will improve all of our lives – lessen neighborhood noise. If you have a system where you click on a fob to lock your car and it makes your car beep – figure out how to change that to your lights flickering or learn some other method to lock and unlock your car so that everyone doesn’t have to listen to a car beeping every time you want to enter or exit the vehicle.

Sometimes this is a difficult thing to figure out – but ask your dealer or look at the car’s instructions. We’ve all gotten used to the convenience of this feature – but really, it’s an annoyance – especially if you live near where people come and park a lot – like a supermarket.

Feel free to like the Car Horn Disengagement Society fan page – and your comments welcome below. Especially helpful would be ideas on how to collect information on how to adjust cars that are the worst offenders. My sense is that it’s VW’s, but I could be wrong.


6.21.16 – Update: How about this – people moving more quietly.. on purpose.. Wow.

And, an interesting article on the topic.


Hey, car-horn abusers: Try reading the manual next time

“It’s 2 a.m., a hot sultry night. With the humidity finally lifted a little, nothing feels better than having windows opened at last, ceiling fans stirring, and some of that long-awaited Canadian summer air breezing through.

That is, until your neighbour’s guests leave, and blast two long honks on their car horn to remind the people they just spent an hour saying goodbye to in the driveway – after spending eight hours in their backyard – that they are indeed leaving.

Why do people do this?

I do not expect rural quiet in an urban setting. Patio chatter, hot tub frolicking, all varieties of music mingling in the night air – all of this is woven into the quilt of city living. I’ll admit to appreciating when folks dial it back a bit by midnight – I lived with a veritable frat house backing onto mine a couple of years back and sat up most nights poised with a fire extinguisher, ever fearful their giant bonfires would set up a flaming maze of interconnected drought-ravaged hedges. They were terrible neighbours in most ways; but there is nothing quite as special as those who abuse their rights to a car horn.

As a rule, I find people who don’t read their car manuals end up not realizing just how many neat things their car can do. They’re missing out on some unique settings, important instructions, and a sense of control very much needed when their car starts flashing things and they make a desperate fumble through the glove box, chasing down an index that includes everything but what the car is currently doing.

It’s too bad, because many cars will allow you to disengage the horn when you lock it with the remote. This is usually a factory setting; the same way you change the seats and mirrors, you can change this. Locking your car and having the horn reassure you it is truly locked may be comforting. For the unwitting person standing next to your car, it can be startling. Especially if you’re a block locker – you hit your remote a block away from your car, as you perhaps enter the mall.

Horns should be used to warn of imminent danger. Their use should be a rarity. Instead, they’re being used increasingly to convey the fact that somebody has enraged you. The person who cut you off doesn’t give a damn; nailing your horn does not shoot darts into their tires to teach them a lesson, nor release a puff of lavender into your car to calm you down.

Why bother?


Grab a Paddle!
and receive my marketing checklist. Click here to discover what's further downriver. 
Sign Me Up!
Not right now...