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  • Bernard Krause's Niche Hypothesis says that each organism has its own aural niche in an ecosystem. But sounds made by humans and our machines occupy huge swathes of the soundscape, often completely covering any other sound. Dave Foreman points out that nearly everyone agrees that at least 5% of every kind of ecosystem should be preserved, and yet we have already eradicated far more than this. So what about regions untouched by our sounds?

    We talk a lot about the ways humans impact the environment in more physical ways - mountaintop removal literally destroys mountains, the tar sands strip huge territories, fracking poisons watersheds, etc. It is far easier to forget the effect we have through the sounds we make. But they have far greater effects than most of us ever realize. The sounds of industrial society place non-human animals under extreme stress, which in many cases cause health issues. And these sounds fill soundscapes, boxing organisms out of their niches, and making it impossible for them to communicate.

    The worst part is, we do this without even thinking about the implications of our actions. As I write this, fireworks are going off outside. They are an annoyance to me - but to the non-human animals outside, the explosions are a violent onslaught. I'm sure the people setting off the fireworks don't intend any harm. But it's time for humans to start thinking more seriously about the unintended consequences of our actions.

    The audio is three recordings taken in Atlanta. The first one is a busy intersection (North Druid Hills Rd. and Lavista Rd.). The second and third are from the woods in a park off of Clairmont Road, near the library. The intersection is a soundscape totally dominated by the sounds of civilization. It is then a welcome relief to shift to the quiet of the woods. But even here, cars and planes can be heard in the difference. And a minute later, a train passes through the woods, and nothing else can be heard. We have colonized nearly every region of the Earth in this way; we aren't always there, but we make use of these ecosystems with little or no respect to the organisms that call them home. And we hurt ourselves in the process. Earth is our home too. It is time for us to ask ourselves: what kind of a home do we want to live in?
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