::Literate Blather::
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Essay: The Roar of Spring

Spring has arrived in New England.

There were two obvious signs. First was the purple crocus poking its shiny head through the wet soil of my backyard garden.

The second was the screaming roar of the gas powered leaf blowers being used by the landscapers in my neighbor’s yard. The noise was deafening – bone rattling – and shattered the morning quiet.

It was as if the leaf blowers snuck up on silence and beat it to death with thick oak clubs.

I closed my eyes and drank my coffee – quietly mourning tranquility.

The racket ended after 35 grueling minutes. I savored the silence until, of course, another landscaping crew arrived at another neighbor’s house and the shriek of the leaf blowers once again murdered tranquility.

Poor tranquility.

And say nothing of my shot nerves and the growing annoyance eating away inside my belly like a cancer.

Gas powered leaf blowers – the kind commonly favored by landscaping companies – produce sound decibels between 80-90 dBA. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) consider noises above 85 dBA to be dangerous.

But noise is only part of the problem.

Consider this:

  • A single gas-powered leaf blower- and more than 2.5 million of them will be sold this year alone- can emit as much pollution in a year as 80 cars, according to an article in U.S. News & World Report.

  • Leaf blowers can push air up to 200 mph and fill the air with dust, fecal matter, pesticides, chemicals, fungi, spores, and fertilizer at about five pounds per hour per blower, according to a report by an Orange County grand jury. The dust takes about one hour to settle.
  • More than 200 cities and towns in the United States have banned gas powered leaf blowers as a nuisance and public health hazard, according to an editorial in the Nashua (N.H.) Telegraph.
  • U.S. retailers sold almost three million leaf blowers in 2006, according to an article in the Boston Globe.

It’s amazing how people put convenience ahead of comfort. Any reasonable thinking person must understand that leaf blowers are dirty, noisy, expensive, and impractical. There are also several studies that show that raking is actually more efficient and faster than using a leaf blower. It also gives people exercise.

Yet per usual – technology – or rather the promise of technology – wins out. Baby boomers and Gen Xers love short cuts, especially when the short cut includes an electronic device. Why do you think we have 40-year-old fathers prowling playgrounds wearing their mobile devices in holsters like they were six shooters?

Gas powered leaf blowers are a bad idea. They should be banned and if a ban isn’t feasible, there should be strict restrictions on the hours in the day when they can be operated. As a society, we don’t put much emphasis on decreasing noise pollution. But noise pollution can have serious health effects.

According to Wikipedia, noise health effects are the heath consequences of elevated sound levels. Over exposure to elevated noise levels can cause hearing loss, hypertension, heart disease, annoyance, and sleep disturbance. Elevated noise levels can also create stress, increase accidents at work and at home, stimulate aggression and other anti-social behavior.

Put away the leaf blower and buy a rake.

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We All Die

Mystical, Magical Autumn

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