Photo credit: Paul Townsend CC BY-ND 2.0
By David Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition
Those of us involved in the ten-year-long National Academy of Engineering report, “Technology for a Quieter America” were concerned to include 27 practical recommendations to provoke awareness and change. One recommendation urged development of Public Service Announcements to increase public awareness that noise is a serious and widespread public health problem. But funding never materialized.
Public education is one of EPA’s statutory duties under the Noise Control Act (1972) and the Quiet Communities Act (1978), and this duty was reiterated in the 2015-16 “Quiet Communities Act” (H.R. 3384, and S.3197 both supported by the Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus, 36 members of Congress who support the effort to reduce community noise).
Some think noise is just too complicated for sound bites. Even so, who should do this? The EPA has not been in position to do anything about noise for decades, but what about the Office of the Surgeon General? Problem is, over time many people (from politicians to engineers to government agency personnel to community groups) have come to assume that the health effects of noise are just “too complicated” to communicate clearly in sound bites.
Several of us supported the 80-minute feature-length documentary “In Pursuit of Silence” precisely because we thought that the subject deserved “long-form” treatment and that noise might just be too complicated for short messages.
We were wrong as the example above illustrates. This new video PSA (from a European government agency) clearly demonstrates the noise CAN be presented in clear, brief, forthright, dramatic terms that are carefully anchored in published research (this video echoes themes established by the World Health Organization two-volume report “Burden of Disease from Environmental Noise” (2011-12)).
If they can do it, why can’t we? What can we Americans learn from this exercise in public outreach? Change won’t happen until the public demands it. The next round of Congressional races has already begun. Let’s get our message on the air!