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Ten years later . . .

Carl Moore

Ten years later . . .

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SOME TIME IN AUGUST ten years ago, a small group of concerned Barbadians hit on the idea that they could persuade fellow citizens that excessive noise was inconsiderate behaviour in a society that prided itself as decent and caring.
The group thought that I, a former newspaper and radio journalist, should test the waters to gauge any acceptance of our idea. The first person to offer assistance through his radio talk programme was Canon Andrew Hatch. Another broadcaster, Mr Dennis Johnson, interviewed me on television.
After months of preparation, in early December, the Minister of the Environment graciously agreed to launch The Society For A Quieter Barbados (SQB).
Ten years later, the SQB can claim some credit for raising the level of consciousness about noise pollution but has so far failed to bestir two Governments into legislative action – not only to pass the requisite laws but to see that they are enforced.
Among the earliest persons to warn us about the possible difficulties was former Chief Town Planner Leonard St Hill. He identified the problem this way: “The many serious occurrences of noise at an unacceptable level, which the SQB observes, documents and tries to bring to the attention of the Government and the wider society, can never be alleviated in any significant manner unless the Government first addresses the problem of the unregulated mixing of commercial and private activities of all kinds
in a land area that is one of the most densely populated in the world.”
Mr St Hill’s observation directly answers Minister of Education Ronald Jones, who noted recently: “Not every square foot of land in Barbados has to have a fete on it.”
He cited Regency Park, Christ Church, as one district where open-air concerts often disturb residents.
A few days later, The Nation printed a letter from a harried resident of the same district. She wrote of one incident: “Some residents closed the windows of their houses in an effort to cope, while others left their premises to spend the night at their friends’ houses.”
All across this little island Barbadians are running from noise and our hearing-impaired Government offers them no succour.
Blind Mrs Isolene Jones could write a book. She has had to run from once peaceful Airy Hill in St Joseph to Drax Hall Woods and later to Constant, in St George.
A former Government minister once told me of moving inland away from noisy Highway 1 to acquire a little respite from constant noise.
Noise has become a permanent feature of our soundscape.
The Minister of Education also has another matter to think about concerning noise. Five years ago, a survey in schools across Barbados revealed that over 800 children were suffering with one or other forms of hearing impairment. I have heard of nothing further on this matter.
I agreed the other day with SQB member Mr Anthony Wiggins who suggested on talk radio that if the minister is all that concerned about noise pollution, he must do more than just talk about it; he should pilot a noise abatement bill in the House of Assembly.
Before that, I would suggest that he get behind the Minister of the Environment to produce that bill he has been promising for almost five years, or simply to dust off the one left by the previous administration.
But no, that won’t happen: “That’s their bill; we want to present our bill!” And the noise goes on.
Lowering the volume is sometimes all that suffering people ask, but that’s non-negotiable. As columnist Peter Wickham says: “People like to feel the music.”
Well, go ahead and rupture your eardrums; you have no right to rupture mine.
After I addressed a group at the Branford Taitt Polyclinic a few years ago, a young man in the audience told me point-blank: “Mr Moore, you can’t win this battle; Bajans like noise. I am one.”
He was right.
• Carl Moore was the first Editor of THE NATION and is a social commentator. Email [email protected]