Some countries more than others. some cities more than others, some streets more than others. . . yet noise is everywhere and noise problems will continue to increase in time. And noise is special. Because from all the sense-organs, the ears are the ones that can not regulate themselves, all other senses have a (some kind of a) voluntary dimension, the ear however is a pure victim of the environment. And with a growing population, this environment is getting more and more polluted. The noise pollution is a special case, just because of this involuntary dimension.
Not when you are visiting a disco, where the noise level is far above accepted levels. Many hearing problems seem to be related to this kind of (disco) experience. But the noise level of a disco is not really an issue as long as you are voluntary visiting such a disco. Even if you have to go, because “everybody is going. . . "
Part of the involuntary level of noise could be assigned as an architectural problem. The way in which the infrastructure is designed defines the level of noise that is received by the population. Highways that cross towns and cities. Also, the location of airports determines much of the noise distribution. You could argue that if the airport is located on a deserted territory that the pollution would be irrelevant. But infrastructural developments grow with the growth of cities and it is impossible to redesign the infrastructure from scratch onwards.
Economically speaking, noise pollution is a side effect; part of the “externalities" of the economy that are not managed or controlled by the market. Externalities occur when the activity of one entity affects the welfare of another in a way that is outside the market. (Public Finance, by H. S. Rosen). And when the market fails, there is only one party that is able to do something – the government. The use of taxes is one way to manage this pollution problem. To taxing vehicles proportionally according to the noise they produce and allocate the received tax income to invest in noise preventing and diminishing initiatives.
The use of technology could help here, like in the case of the aircraft industry. But also the use of new technology requires funding. And people are only prepared to pay when they are affected or at least aware of the problem. And with the constant growth of traffic we all will be more involved and aware of noise pollution. And we will have to pay for it, sooner or later.
© 2006 Hans Bool
Hans Bool is the founder of Astor White a traditional management consulting company that offers online management tools. Have a look at some of our free management tools