THE lockdown implemented around the world has not only made the Earth cleaner; it also made it quieter. People stayed indoors to limit their exposure to the coronavirus; factories were shutdown; cars, trains and trucks were taken off the road. The air was clearer and there was a lot less man-made noise. The Earth was quiet.
The reduced noise was actually measured. According to a research led by the Royal Observatory of Belgium and five other institutions around the world including Imperial College London, the lack of human activity during lockdown caused human-linked vibrations in the Earth to drop by an average of 50 percent between March and May 2020. The paper is published in the journal Science.
Experts say that the quiet period is likely the longest and largest dampening of human-caused seismic noise since they started monitoring the Earth in detail using vast monitoring networks of seismometers. The relative quietness allowed researchers to listen in to previously concealed earthquake signals, and could help differentiate between human and natural seismic noise more clearly than ever before.
Less noise is good for humans. According to the US National Institute of Health, loud sounds can damage sensitive structures of the inner ear and cause hearing loss. This makes conversation and other daily activities more difficult, and also causes many other health problems. Exposure to noise causes adverse health effects like stress, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Animals also benefit from a peaceful and quiet surrounding. The birds for instance, can communicate with each other more clearly. The signals birds send each other through song is important because it is a means of survival. Without the ability to sing, hear and be heard, birds would have a difficult time finding a mate or defending their territory from predators.
And because it is quiet, city birds don't have to "shout" to be heard. Recent studies show that city birds sing higher-frequency songs than their counterparts in non-urban areas to counteract loud noise due to traffic, trains, cars, airplanes, leaf-blowers, grass cutters, jackhammers and other noisy machines.
The oceans are also quiet. The Covid-19 pandemic slowed international shipping and kept cruise ships docked. As a result, scientists are finding measurably less noise in the ocean. There is less seismic testing, sonar and oil drilling too. That could provide momentary relief for whales and other marine mammals that are highly sensitive to noise.
The pandemic has caused stress, fear and anxiety to many people. On the other hand, it also provided quiet moments, a break from the hustle and bustle of city life. Silent moments to contemplate and to reach out to God who has the power to ease sufferings, heal the sick and eliminate Covid-19 altogether.
August 20, 2020
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