I stood on the beach, dripping from my swim, and watched sea birds hurtle into the water like dive bombers. Perfect arrows hunting for their targets. Foolish fish skipping across the water ended up in hungry bellies. Waves crashed on the beach and the springtime sun tickled the ripples on the water. I marvelled at how lucky I am to live in paradise. I was feeling smug until a rude and raucous interjection from a motor boat ruined the whole effect. The scene was still as beautiful, the birds just as fascinating, but any enjoyment or sense of wonder was shattered by the sound of an outboard kicking itself across the bay.
Sound, or the lack of it, is such an important element of our enjoyment of the environment. We all have the right to enjoy the natural sounds of our beaches and rivers, and no one with a noisy machine should be able to take that away. Since the 1970’s the US Government has recognised that natural quiet is a resource at the Grand Canyon, just like the animals and the vegetation, and must be protected. They’ve had all kinds of trouble with scenic flights ruining the ambience. So much so they established laws requiring that natural quiet be substantially restored to the park. Oops….I took one of those scenic helicopter flights with The Hubby last year, after we got married in Vegas by Elvis. I loved it, but we had to wear headphones to cut out the noise of the rotors.
Today, natural quiet is an exceedingly rare and increasingly threatened commodity not only in the Grand Canyon but anywhere. I love the idea of it being a natural resource that needs to be protected. We can protect habitats, vegetation, wild life and parks but if there are planes and helicopters flying overhead, the rumble of traffic in the distance or annoying motor boats churning through the water, we’re not going to experience them with any great joy.
A beach without the sound of the waves? The bush without the wind in the trees, the singing of the birds? A river without the tinkling of the water over the rocks? If these sounds are being continually drowned out by modern machinery an essential element of nature is destroyed. I love music but even so I’ve never heard a song more evocative than the sound of the sea or a symphony more exciting than a storm. And if helicopter flights over the Grand Canyon are ever banned, I’d love to say that I would hike it instead with only the sound of my breath for company, but I’d be lying. I’d stay in town and hang with Elvis.