the sound of unsustainability


Over the three lengthy chapters that make up The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want, Garret Keizer argues that life in our post-industrial era is the playground of the economically powerful, who carelessly inflict their refuse on the weak: “marginalized people, small creatures, and simple pursuits.” Noise, or “unwanted sound,” is the vector for this extended case study, and along the way it becomes something more than simply “unwanted.” It becomes an elegant cipher for the abundance of violence our civilization has not yet quelled or fully recognized. He reads a terrible richness in the ecological, social, and economical dynamics of machine noise’s interaction with life: small creatures terrorized by the din of a highway cutting through their habitat, airport workers forced to live under the flight path of the planes they service, and soldiers in the military “exposed to weapons fire and explosive devices that may produce sound levels as high as 185 dB.” Keizer believes an understanding of noise pollution in all its gravity gives the lie to any notion of a cleanly won modern world. “The extent to which we regard noise issues as ‘precious,’ in the pejorative sense of the word,” he writes, “is the extent to which we will squander those things we ought to hold precious in the positive sense of the word: fragile ecosystems, manual skills, local cultures, neighborhoods, children.

more from Sean Higgins at AGNI here.