The Atlantic

The Struggle for the Urban Soundscape

The quiet of lockdown and the noise of protest restage the political conflicts of sonic life in the city.
Source: Erin Brethauer and Tim Hussin

Updated at 9:15 p.m. ET on July 21, 2020.

Videos by Erin Brethauer and Tim Hussin

I remember a night of insomnia a few weeks after the pandemic began. As I lay in bed early that March morning, my mind racing, the robins began to sing—a silver lining under a poor night’s rest. As the sun rose, I waited for the inevitable sounds of day: the car engines of people in my Washington, D.C. apartment building headed off to work, the clamor of landscapers with leaf blowers, the din of a construction crew’s nail guns, all drowning out the birds until the next daybreak.

But to my surprise, the day’s usual noise never arrived. The robins continued to sing, joined by a choir of white-throated sparrows, cardinals, and Carolina wrens. Walking my dog, I saw why. The construction site was abandoned, all the equipment gone. The landscapers who descend every Wednesday were nowhere to be found either. Our parking lot, usually empty by 8 a.m., was full of cars. Until their afternoon lull, when they nap or seek shelter until dusk, the birds sang on.

Others noticed this newfound quietude too. Friends online asked if the world had gotten quieter. My urban-birding mailing list was abuzz over the quality of new recordings. Scientists soon confirmed the phenomenon. First, Dutch seismologists that the lack environmental-noise studies from around the world, demonstrating that cities had in fact gotten much, much quieter during the pandemic.

Sie lesen eine Vorschau. Registrieren Sie sich, um mehr zu lesen.

Ähnliche Interessen

Mehr von The Atlantic

The Atlantic9 min gelesenPolitics
The ‘Blue Shift’ Will Decide the Election
As polling places closed on November 6, 2018, the expected “blue wave” looked more like a ripple. Not only had some of the highest-profile Democratic candidates lost, but the party’s gains in the House and the Senate looked smaller than anticipated.
The Atlantic12 min gelesen
Forest Fires Are Setting Chernobyl’s Radiation Free
Trees now cover most of the exclusion zone, and climate change is making them more likely to burn.
The Atlantic6 min gelesenPsychology
Dear Therapist: I Don’t Want My Sister in My Bridal Party
Editor’s Note: Every Monday, Lori Gottlieb answers questions from readers about their problems, big and small. Have a question? Email her at dear.therapist@theatlantic.com. Dear Therapist, My younger sister is a few years younger than I am. Growing