Since the start of the lockdown, the reduced road and air traffic have significantly lowered the air and noise pollution in our cities. There are many positive consequences, including the return of urban wildlife, as well as increased interest and sensitivity to the plants, insects, mammals, and birds that share our environment. The changes in our lifestyle over the last couple of months have led many of us to really appreciate the wildlife around us. Although people are reporting that birdsong sounds louder than normal, we’re noticing this because the everyday background noise level of cars, aircraft, and construction sites is much lower. The world was not always filled with the same intensity of noise. For tens of thousands of years, our ancestors led relatively peaceful and quiet lives, often intimately connected with nature and the world around them. Outside the developed world, there are still many people who lead quiet and peaceful lives.
Before this pandemic, when was the last time you really experienced silence? Maybe you were on holiday in the mountains, on the coast, or walking through a forest, and became still for a moment as you noticed the peace and quiet of your surroundings? So, why is it that many of us do not feel comfortable with silence? Interestingly, silence is a sign of danger for many social animals; for instance, birds become silent before a big storm. Whether it’s because we unconsciously sense danger or something else, as modern humans we’ve grown used to noise and tend to fill up any silent gaps in our experience with distracting sounds. So, we turn on the radio, play music on our smartphones, or have the TV on in the background to distract ourselves from the silence.