How a generation is choosing to become deaf to nature

Ian Sample writes: The tranquil chorus of the natural world is in danger of being lost to today’s generation as people screen out the noises that surround them, a senior US researcher warns.

Rising levels of background noise in some areas threaten to make people oblivious to the uplifting sounds of birdsong, trickling water, and trees rustling in the wind, which can often be heard even in urban centres, said Kurt Fristrup, a senior scientist at the US National Park Service.

The problem was exacerbated by people listening to iPods through their earphones instead of tuning in to the birds and other sounds of nature that can easily be drowned out by traffic, music and others noises, he said.

“This learned deafness is a real issue,” Fristrup told the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in San Jose. “We are conditioning ourselves to ignore the information coming into our ears.”

“This gift that we are born with – to reach out and hear things hundreds of metres away, all these incredible sounds – is in danger of being lost through a generational amnesia,” he said. [Continue reading…]

On a forest trail I frequent, I witness this almost every day — usually it’s runners, under 45, who prefer sound to travel down earbuds rather than come through the air that surrounds them.

I never cease to be baffled by this choice. Why go to the woods if not to soak in everything they have to offer?

I understand that there are lots of situations in which people feel the desire to be somewhere else — phones and the internet cater to this insatiable need for dislocation. But if one cannot be in the woods without wanting to be transported somewhere else, it seems like the very sense of being is at risk of becoming utterly lost.

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