Two weekends ago, I took part in a women’s retreat at a beautiful farm in rural Connecticut. And I did something unusual—I turned off my cell phone. Instead of glancing at my phone, I soaked in the landscape, embraced time meditating, and laughed with soulful women around me. I took a step away from tech, and I couldn’t have been happier.
It’s long been known that the undersea noise we create with our large machines — oil drilling equipment, ships and submarines — has a detrimental effect on whales, causing hearing damage and changes in feeding, mating and communication. And noise from snowmobiles has often been cited as the reason some species of animals in Yellowstone National Park are being stressed and pushed out of their preferred habitats, impacting their health and increasing mortality.
It turns out that our large machines, though, may not be our only cause for concern when it comes to outdoor noise pollution and its effects on the natural world. Our small, compact mobile phones — and the apps we put on them — have been shown to change the behavior of birds.
Will the noise we individuals are increasingly capable of imposing upon other species outdoors soon also have enough power to affect their ability to survive?