Human

Expert: Silence is a 'scarce resource', synonymous with the comfort of life

Credit: Adobe Stock
Credit: Adobe Stock

Silence is a 'scarce resource', synonymous with the comfort of life, a luxury in the modern civilization of noise, says Dr. Sebastian Bernat, a geographer and professor at the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University. The last Wednesday of April is the International Noise Awareness Day.

'Protection against noise is one of the most important challenges of the modern world. Noise pollution causes a significant health risk and a high financial burden, which is why reducing its effects can bring many benefits', emphasizes Dr. Sebastian Bernat from the Institute of Socio-Economic Geography and Spatial Management, Faculty of Earth Sciences and Spatial Management, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, in an expert commentary sent to PAP.

The researcher reminds that the problem of assessing and managing the noise level in the environment is addressed by the EU Directive 2002/49/EC, called the 'Noise Directive', the purpose of which is, among other things, the adoption of action plans by the Member States to maintain the noise level in the environment in areas where its quality is good (protection of quiet areas both inside and outside agglomerations).

Silence can have many useful functions in a person's life, including therapeutic and educational ones, the scientist points out; it is conducive to concentration, reflection, development, it stimulates imagination, fantasy, creative activity, it helps to understand and see the meaning of life and human activity, it helps to control emotions.

'Silence (...) is a +scarce resource+, synonymous with the comfort of life, a luxury in the modern civilization of noise and media chaos', emphasizes Dr. Bernat.

The expert cites research conducted among high school and university students in Lublin, which showed that even if the respondents were not fully aware of the importance of silence, they intuitively felt that moments of silence and peace could and should matter to them.

'With age, this need grows and is articulated in an increasingly conscious manner. Respondents are aware of the need for silence in various places/areas, especially in parks, forests, gardens, but also libraries and sacral places (church, cemetery)', the geographer reports.

The noise in the environment was reduced during the pandemic due to various restrictions on human activity. 'Silence became an experience of those times. Research conducted among students of Lublin universities showed that during the pandemic, the values of nature and landscape and their healing effects, also those related to the presence of silence, began to be appreciated to a greater extent', the researcher points out.

Noise can be broadly described as a nuisance sound with a frequency of 65-70 decibels (dB); it can cause not only hearing damage, but also sleep disorders, cardiovascular and metabolic problems, and cognitive impairment in children, the expert says.

'It is estimated that long-term exposure to noise causes 41,000 new cases of heart disease and 11,000 premature deaths in Europe every year. Research by the European Environment Agency (EEA) has shown that at least one in five people in the European Union is exposed to harmful noise levels generated by road traffic. This number is expected to increase in the coming years, especially in urban areas', describes Dr. Bernat.

Noise pollution also affects animals, making it difficult for them to communicate and increasing their stress levels, resulting in changes in their behaviour and even causing them to leave their habitats.

In the light of the Environmental Protection Law (2001), protection against noise consists in ensuring the best possible acoustic condition of the environment, in particular by maintaining the noise level below or at the permissible level and reducing the noise level to at least the permissible level when it is not respected, the researcher reminds.

The law introduced the obligation to draw up strategic acoustic maps (every 5 years) for the purpose of assessing the acoustic condition of the environment for agglomerations with a population of over 100,000 and areas outside agglomerations for roads, railways and airports, the operation of which may cause negative acoustic impact in significant areas.

Dr. Sebastian Bernat is the author of the monograph Dźwięk w krajobrazie. Podejście geograficzne ('Sound in the landscape. Geographical approach'). (PAP)

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