It’s Time to Shut down the Powertool Orchestra

The Case Against Leaf Blowers by Singer

Cartoon by Andy Singer

Death 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.

Here’s the movement anthem: Live. Thank you, Asylum Street Spankers.

to join a group of people in Portland, Oregon working to stop the leaf blower madness, join us @ quietcleanpdx.org

My Nextdoor.com posts about Leaf Blowers – Feel free to borrow and re-post

Nextdoor.com posts about leaf blowers by Albert Kaufman, Portland, Oregon

Please re-post these as is, credit or not. You, now 🙂 Thank you – let’s end the noise and air pollution of leaf blowers together.

  1. Pets and Leaf Blowers don’t mix: Note from a veterinarian

    In support of local efforts to ban gas leaf blowers and improve the quality of life in Sonoma and drastically reduce unnecessary harmful particulate matter in the air we breathe, I wanted to contribute a few statements and my opinion from the vantage point of a working small animal Veterinarian in Sonoma.It is very well known that particulate matter such as dust, dirt, and debris from the environment can pose a tremendous health challenge for dog, cats, and virtually all other mammals. While the normal changes in seasons, weather, rainfall, and pollen counts can all affect animals, extra particulate matter such as the debris aerosolized by leaf blowers pose a sharply increased risk for a variety of health problems for our domestic species. Among those most notably seen by me directly are:

    1. Significant flare up of cough, wheezing, and “respiratory” issues that encompass both infectious and inflammatory types of diseases.

    2. Eye problems of unknown origin–either in one or both eyes: owners report a clear discharge from the eyes or a “pink eye” situation with no previous known injury.

    3. Nasal discomfort: rubbing and snorting, as if to remove a “foreign body” that is not there, but rather a minute irritant that was substantial enough to bother the mucous membranes and irritate the pet’s nasal passages.

    4. Skin issues, including itching and scratching. These clinical signs are usually blamed completely on atopy or “allergy.” There is well documented, long standing scientific evidence that the irritation in the skin is secondary to allergens that the pet has inhaled.

    In addition, because pets are so sound sensitive, the use of leaf blowers can startle animals and cause outdoor pets to dart away from yards and potentially scare them into more dangerous situations such as traffic or other precarious situations.

    The blasting “on and off” sounds made with leaf blowers has a definite impact on small animals “fight or flight” response, causing an immediate release of cortisol into the bloodstream. Especially with cats, this taxes the body and leads to a surge in blood glucose almost instantly. In my opinion, this is a good example of the loud noise made by leaf blowers having a negative impact on animals all around our town—it is not an obvious impact, but once you realize what is going on inside their bodies on a cellular level, you realize that maybe the impact is farther reaching than we previously realized.

    The information and examples I have stated above are only a small sample of the deleterious effects that leaf blowers have on the small animals of Sonoma. I hope that my words will help get some conversations started that emphasize the importance of considering the quality of life for our pets in Sonoma as people make an effort to decide the fate of leaf blowers in our community.

    I would be happy to answer any other questions regarding this topic as my time and schedule permit.

    Sincerely,

    Vallard Forsythe, DVM ~ Broadway Veterinary Hospital

    735 Broadway Sonoma, CA 95476

    (707) 938-4546

  2. More and more brave towns are putting a stop to the tyranny of leaf blowers – Thanks for considering!

    Lately I’ve noticed less and less gas-powered leaf blowers being used in our community. Thank you to anyone who has personally made the change or had their landscaping service adjust either to electric blowers or to rakes and brooms. Thank you thank you thank you – the Earth thanks you – your neighbors thank you – the insects thank you. Thank you! https://qz.com/1729584/more-brave-towns-are-putting-a-stop-to-the-tyranny-of-leaf-blowers/ PS – the quietcleanpdx.org group is working on something with the City. I hope to have news about this very soon.

  3. The Devil’s Workshop by Kim Stafford, Oregon Poet Laureate, 2018-2020

    The Devil’s Workshop by Kim Stafford, Oregon Poet Laureate, 2018-2020 To torture your neighbors, some devil said, I give you my multi-tool that hits so many irritants at once: it deafens workers so their ears ring, it kicks up killing dust to sicken children, it spews more poisons to taint the sky in a mere half hour than a truck driving from the Texas plains to Alaska, and all to hustle leaves from yard to bin. Have you seen one such contraption chase a single leaf to pirouette in the blue plume that’s killing us? Have you gritted your teeth and hated the neighbor you recently enjoyed? Have you missed your meditative hour with rake and rain, as you walked your way from summer into fall? My friend, the bar is low. We can do better. —– Learn more about this issue @ https://quietcleanpdx.org

  4. If you’re still not convinced about the danger of leaf-blowers, please watch this video

    https://youtu.be/sRsYRen6nVE  Join our effort to ban these in Portland @ https://quietcleanpdx.org

  5. The Case Against Leaf Blowers by Singer

The Eleven September 2019

The Eleven – September 2019

Creek near Carson, WA
Greetings!
I hope you’ve been having a great Summer. If this is your first time here, welcome! I’ve been writing this newsletter, The Eleven, since 2008 – that’s right, 11 years! How time flies 🙂 This month I want to share with you some thinking I’ve been doing about world/neighborhood change – the concept is basically issues vs. candidates.
There are many ways to effect change in our world, and boy does it need changing. From logging old-growth forests in the PNW to climate change we have our work cut out for us. There seems to be mostly one path towards change that is encouraged in our society and that is getting behind a candidate or political party. If that’s exciting to you – by all means – I do think it’s valuable service – especially voter registration and voting! And, the type of work that is involved in politics is not for everyone. It can often be confrontational – and I think the biggest problem might be our inability to get behind leaders. Leaders are people and people are fallible. We want perfection in our leaders and it’s just not going to happen. So, we get stuck trying to get behind Warren, Sanders, Harris, or a local leader and then feel disillusioned when their humanness is revealed. For some, it’s no matter, and they’ll keep on fighting for their candidate(s). For others, though, there seems nowhere else to go where one can make a difference. I think issues are a great place for many people to put their energy.
The Case Against Leaf Blowers by Singer
I’m going to use an example that I’ve been working on for the past year. Eliminating gas-powered leaf blowers (GLBs). If you’d like to receive news on this topic, click here .
About a year ago I met Michael Hall at a candidate meet and greet for Joanne Hardesty who was running for Portland City Council (she won!). Michael had just written an article I’d read about gas-powered leaf blowers and raised the issue in this meeting. That led to our meeting and Michael invited me to join a group of people who meet at his house every 2 weeks to discuss what we can do to eliminate GLBs in Portland and beyond.
There are a lot of interesting aspects of meeting together as a group (home-made baked goods being one of them!). There is a lot of warmth, shared vision, a chance for group members to shine, successes, challenges – just like with a candidate running for office. The difference is that if one stays with the issue there’s a real chance that something can be changed. Long-time readers of this newsletter know that I’ve been involved in societal change for most of my adult life.

How to use Nextdoor.com to effect Neighborhood Change

I posted an article about my love of Nextdoor.com and why it’s useful a few years ago. Since then, my thinking about nextdoor.com has changed and grown. I see Nextdoor as a much more powerful tool for neighborhood change than I did in the past.

Read more
albertideation.com

Working on an issue rather than via a candidate or party really is a completely different thing. Here are some issues I’ve been working on at the neighborhood level. There is something about working with a small group, too. So, if any of this has resonated with you and you have room and interest in your life to make a difference at some level in society, pick an issue and see what you can do. If you’d like to discuss which issue might make the most sense for you to get involved in, please write me and let’s talk.
On a personal level I’ve been doing a bunch of yoga lately. I got to visit Breitenbush for 3 days last week, which is one of my favorite places on Earth. Last weekend I attended Epic Jam #2 in Carson, WA ( pic @ top ) – and got in some great playing with some of my favorite musicians. This week I get to hear one of my musical heroes – Martyn Joseph, of Wales, perform in a house concert and Dave Bromberg on Saturday! Btw, I didn’t make it to Burning Man this year – though after attending so many years sometimes it feels like I’m there while the event is going on 🙂
Here comes Fall. I hope life is treating you super fine.
Keep in touch and let me know how things are going.
Sincerely,
Albert
PS – If you want to keep up with politics I’ve found an interesting channel. Robert Hubbell of LA writes an interesting newsletter 5x a week and I’ve been very inspired by it. For instance, he encouraged people to put https://vote.gov in their email signature lines with this note:
Visit Vote.gov to register to vote and to learn about voting requirements in your state. Tell a friend.
If you write Robert @ rbhubbell@gmail.com and ask to subscribe, you’ll be subscribed to his newsletter. Like mine, you can hop off at any time.
Albert @ Beloved 2019 by Carlton Ward

Defeating Climate Change by Dismantling World Economies

Climate Change

Climate Change

I’ve been working on a campaign to rid my City, Portland, Oregon of gas-powered leaf blowers. This seems like low-hanging fruit in our fight to stop climate change. DC just banned them, so I figure we can do the same. While I’m working on this it got me to thinking what other simple changes could we make that would have a great impact on our climate.

For a long time I’ve had a few ideas that I think would make society simpler and in case #2 reduce commute times. The first is “Where does this dirt go?” The idea is that there is a centralized database that could track when dirt is being dug and moved — which could connect those who have dirt/fill with those who need it — rather than what currently seems to happen — dirt is dug, and then moved to a pile in the sub or ex-urbs and then brought back in via dump trucks. The 2nd idea is also database driven and has people who do exchangeable jobs switch with others to move their jobs closer to their homes. Ie, I am a 3rd grade teacher who drives an hour each day to my school — instead I switch with another 3rd grade teacher so that both of our commutes shorten — this might involve many people switching.

But really on a larger scale, a great way for us to combat climate change will be to pretty much shut down our current economy. I’m in the US, but other countries would probably benefit from this action, too. Our current economy is pretty new and does not have to be the way things are — it just is. So, what do I mean by shut down the economy?  Basically, everything that is not necessary to peoples’ lives should stop being produced. Especially, anything that has to do with war or killing (speaking of low-hanging fruit). Yes, many jobs will disappear and the transition will both take time and be a challenge to all of us. And, the other choice is cooking ourselves to death and moving towards a planet that is uninhabitable. So, please hear me out and possibly suggest ideas that could shape this into an actual policy.

Here’s further what I have in mind: the complete localization of everything. I wander my neighborhood in SE Portland and imagine a future where more people are at home — spending time with their kids; learning french and the piano. Imagine a life like that lived by Bill Murray in Groundhog Day — where we’re spending our precious lives learning, playing, cooking food together and being in community with one another. Doesn’t that sound more appetizing than commuting to a cubicle and spending 40+ hours a week working, anyway?  It does to me. I think it does to a lot of people.

So, what would go? Well, war-related everything. Health insurance companies seem unnecessary — I could see the US copying Germany’s version of healthcare. The production of a lot of stuff — I’m sure there’s some way to figure out together what’s useful and what’s not? And then for those jobs that are necessary, we share them.  The stock market and the way companies progress by driving up share prices for shareholders obviously needs to change. That’s leading to the using up of our natural resources — I’m watching as Oregon forests get chopped down for toilet paper and phone books by out of state investment companies looking to make a quick buck. These trees are the planets lungs — there should be an immediate moratorium on cutting trees, worldwide and planting as many as possible.

And, as quickly as possible we should all be moving towards solar and wind-powered everything. Wow, there’s a lot to think about here.  The gist is — how quickly can we transition away from our current way of doing things to something that looks more local, village-like, less resource-intensive, and less fossil-fuel based.  While we reduce our human population.

Last word on that idea: there’s a lot of talk about “replacement level” population growth. Why on God’s earth would we want to be at replacement level? Why is that seen as a good thing? The US with 320 million people is crowded. Forget replacement level — shrinking could be a great thing for all of us.

Further thought is needed on a lot of this. And, my a-ha moment about changing how we do things seemed valuable enough that I wanted to share it. Let me know if you have something to add. Thanks. For a better world, Albert Kaufman

PS – this article was also shared on Daily Kos – if you’d like to read some interesting comments check it out.

4.7.19 – this books looks like a good guide. How to Do Nothing

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