A Screed Against Aggressive Noise

The Silent Pool

The Silent Pool, Shere, Surrey

“There are days when an uncanny silence seems to hang over the surface of ‘Silent Pool’, a small lake surrounded by trees a mile west of Shere in Surrey. And if the legend that is told about the lake is true, this silence recalls the murderous lechery of a prince and the tragic deaths of a woodman’s children.”

So says my Readers’ Digest Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain. This may have been true in 1973 when the book was written, but it was not true today. Far from it, thanks to the throngs of motorcyclists congregating in the area and the attendant cacophony. I enjoy a bit of irony as much as the next person, but my visit to The Silent Pool gave me little reason to smile.

I loathe the sound of motorbikes. All human-created noise destroys the tranquility of the environment; this includes the noise my car made to get me to the place in question. I acknowledge that. But motorbikes are specifically designed to make more noise than is mechanically necessary. Why? Because noise = power. Those that have the technical ability to make a high volume noise completely control the aural fate of others. It’s the same warped mentality that uses noise as weapons of war and torture. It says “listen to me, I’m important and you are not.” So motorcycle manufacturers make bikes that inflict ever-increasing amounts of noise on others and motorcyclists buy them, either because they don’t realise, or don’t care, how devastating the noise is.

The noise of motorbikes is impossible to ignore. It devastates peace and tranquility, spoiling the natural environment for everyone else. At a time when people like me are trying to show that we need, more than ever, to listen to the land, motorcyclists are robbing us of our ability to do so.

Yet, its not just spoiling the enjoyment of others: it is actually harmful. It has been proved beyond doubt that excess noise causes mental and physical disease in humans. Studies have also shown that wildlife is harmed by loud noise: to survive, creatures are forced to alter their behaviour as a result of noise-induced stress. This can even permanently impact the environment causing lasting degradation to the natural soundscape. According to Bernie Krause:

When unwanted noise occurs, human and non-human creatures alike are denied an experience of their important acoustic connections. Humans especially lose that positive interaction between themselves and the living world. 1

The above quote comes from Wild Soundscapes: Discovering the Natural World. Along with Krause’s The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origin of Music in the World’s Wild Places, its an important book because it shows how human noise is intruding upon wild places ever more insidiously. It also shows what we stand to lose if we allow this to continue. I recommend it highly. 

1 Krause, Bernie Wild Soundscapes: Discovering the Natural World, 2016, page 16

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