A few weeks ago, due to the happy coincidence of Siberian winds mixing with winds coming from North Africa, the city where I live was run over by the biggest snowfall of the last 60 years. It was such an unusual meteorological event that both city management and the entire population were astonished and completely unprepared. We woke up as the snow was falling down and all experienced for a couple of hours the diminishing presence along all streets of private cars and motorcycles, public transportation (buses, trams), garbage trucks, and the absolute absence of alarm signals or music outside pubs—something that had never happened before at this latitude. Suddenly, all everyday sound sources were shut down. This enchantment lasted till midday when the sun appeared, followed by the voices of the kids playing in the streets and a few cars moving.
In the following days, mass media gave large attention to this event, taking interviews to people of all ages, organizing special broadcasts, and publishing articles on the global experience. It was surprising that the most tagged statements of this media campaign were, “I loved that sound changed. . . . New and fascinating sounding atmosphere. . . . Wonderful sense of quite.”
From the point of view of noise control engineers and experts it was a simple, although interesting, urban noise control experiment with a background sound dropping down of 30 dB in a really short time. However, from the viewpoint of environmental sociologists and psychologists, it was an interesting experience for the population as most people—especially among the young generation, thanks to an extraordinary event (and a natural demonstration)—gained sudden awareness of the importance of the auditory sense and awareness that the noisy world that we suffer every day can be changed with a consequent improvement in our quality of life.
The technical and scientific communities that deal with noise control and all policy makers and stakeholders interested in community health and quality of life cannot, however, wait passively for extraordinary events to enlighten the population toward the importance and opportunity of noise control. Together it is necessary to build up and commit to an outreaching policy. With different approaches, some of them necessarily innovative, this policy has to keep the level of attention high.
I-INCE and its National Society members are expected to be avant-garde on this.
Worldwide initiatives, such as the yearly Noise Awareness Day or the World Hearing Day of WHO, must be strongly and actively supported not only with advertising but also by building up demonstrations in loco and making these demonstrations available to all through social media. Great emphasis and support must be given to the International Year of Sound fixed in 2020.
I-INCE and its National Society members have a complex patrimony of documents, papers, and results that are kept alive every year by the INTER-NOISE Congress’s proceedings, which are made available with appreciation to the technical and scientific communities. Part of this patrimony contains information that can have a direct impact on people’s awareness. It is worthwhile to publish this information through NNI and through connected social media to engage a larger amount of the population.
A big challenge for all of us!
I-INCE, Vice President Development and Outreach