The sound of Nature
October 01, 2019 by Extinction Rebellion
Are you a good listener? Let’s start with rhubarb. A few years ago a farm in Yorkshire posted a recording of their rhubarb growing. The bursting buds and squelching mud are quite a surprise – a mixture of popcorn and beatboxing.
Tuning into the soundscape is an important way of reconnecting with the rest of the living planet, for example bird calls, the thrum of pollinators, and running water. Every ecosystem has a unique sound, as each organism occupies their own ‘sonic niche’ in order to be heard. But not all the sounds around us are therapeutic. Increasingly, the natural soundscape is being disrupted by human-made noise, crowding out the voices of other living things. City blackbirds have been shown to change the pitch of their song, possibly to compete with low frequency traffic noise. For killer whales, however, the consequences are dire, as research shows that the sound of ships affects their ability to find food.
Humans also suffer the consequences of the noise we make. According to the World Health Organisation, exposure to noise like road traffic can lead to a number of health problems, including heart disease and stress- related mental health risks.
Then there is inner noise. Michelle Brenner, a conflict resolution consultant based in Australia, writes about how overuse of technology like mobile phones is sapping our intuition, affecting our ability to communicate with each other. “To listen to our inner selves or others is an art, it is a gift to give and a gift to receive, and it is a choice,” she writes.
In a world where debate means shouting over opposing views, good listening skills are more important than ever. As primatologist Jane Goodall said: “Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right.” Whether it’s our view about how to tackle the environmental crisis, or what we think about rhubarb, attentive listening can change the way we see the world.