Alert: Wifi & GMO Apples

The link below takes you to an excellent and clear article that shows you even more ways I hadn’t heard of till now that increasing use of wifi and all our devices is contributing to increases in serious illness. It’s pretty scary stuff, so all the more reason to keep up the fight against even more EMF pollution that will come from 5G. You’ll also see that we need to use Europe’s model to help us convince leaders that this must not continue. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s insane to keep going on this path. Here’s the article, by Diane Testa, PhD, on the EMF Safety Network site:

http://emfsafetynetwork.org/what-do-gmos-and-wi-fi-have-in-common/#more-14621

INDUSTRIAL & Other LOUD NOISE & its EFFECTS on HEALTH & WELLBEING

Susan Cooke

This is an updated and clarified post and reminder of how we’re affected by industrial noise, how we can help others by limiting the noise we make, and how we can begin to persuade government and business to help us find more quiet in our daily lives in the city, including quiet in the few bits of nature we can find there. Research increasingly shows we’re starved for time in nature–that is, nature without industrial noise.  Research also shows that loud noise in general is decreasing wellbeing and adding to illness worldwide.

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Do you ever find that there’s no place near home where you can experience even a few minutes of quiet time in some green space like a garden or park, or even your own yard, porch, or balcony (emphasis on the word quiet)? How many times can you go outside or just open your windows on a lovely day without hearing leaf-blowers, giant lawnmowers, diesel trucks, jets overhead, or construction equipment? Do you go into your garden if you have one, to take a moment to smell the roses or some other flowers you planted, or just to hear the breeze rustling the leaves, and get a lungful of nearby leaf-blower or diesel exhaust along with an earful of roaring noise?

Do you get blasted with loud sound systems or TVs in every eatery or store you enter? Do you ever say “enough” to the ever-increasing noise assaults of all kinds? Did you know that besides the stress you feel, and even if you don’t feel it as much as many others do, that so much exposure to all these loud sound assaults (and in the case of loud engines, exposure to the exhaust from many of them) is harmful to your health?  

In my town, a small city next to Boston, you can take what you might hope will be a quiet walk as late as 6 or 7 pm and still be forced to hear or inhale, on street after street, noise and fumes from leaf-blowers, giant lawnmowers, weed-whackers, power saws, sanders, stone-cutting equipment, and more. When you add this to the many loud and smelly (and unhealthy for you and the planet) oil trucks, huge UPS trucks, and souped-up motorcycles, you can see you’re living in a chronically noisy and toxic atmosphere humans were never exposed to for most of their existence.

Our nervous systems haven’t changed much and they don’t react well to this onslaught. While many Americans suffer from hearing such noises most of the day and into the evening, these practices at such extended hours are illegal in many cities in the world. Noise laws are generally lax in the United States. In my town, and according to my research, in many others, the loose laws are clearly designed to largely to make landscape and construction businesses happy, along with a few residents on every street who are in love with their own private stash of power equipment. All of these people and businesses are seemingly unable to (or refuse to) consider how much anyone else may be stressed and made ill by the noise and fumes. They in fact don’t seem to even consider the effects on their own and their families’ health.

There is similar lack of empathy in legions of restaurant and store owners who now regularly torture many of their customers (and quite a few employees) with sound often loud enough to damage hearing, cause headaches, and raise blood pressure for hours after the exposure. (See, for example, these links:

https://ny.racked.com/2012/7/20/7717129/abercrombie-and-hollister-are-painfully-loud-on-purpose

&

https://www.vox.com/2018/4/18/17168504/restaurants-noise-levels-loud-decibels

I’ve noticed that the sound systems tend to become louder every year, unless many people request that the volume be turned down (and mostly that doesn’t happen because often such requests are met with surprising hostility). I and many people I’ve interviewed are finding we’re more and more uncomfortable everywhere we go. Lately the music has moved from fairly annoying to sounding like World War III in some of these places, starting as early as 6:30 in the morning when customers’ eyes are barely open. My own experience has convinced me that torture by noise (yes, noise has been used to torture) must be quite effective.

In many American cities, attempts by residents to ease their noise burden are met with passivity, stubborn resistance, or even rage. Heads in the sand, oblivious to the pleas by suffering residents, many city, state, and national leaders put noise on the bottom of their priority lists. This is hard to understand when healthcare costs are so high and the effects on health of noise and fumes are so egregious. In my town loud noise is allowed 7 am to 7 pm on weekdays, and is hardly better on weekends (including Sundays)—8 am to 7 pm.

This kind of schedule would astound people in some other countries whose governments are sensitive to this problem. In Germany, making others suffer with your noise is understood to be rude and to cause stress. As you’ll see below, German cities and some other European ones such as Stockholm are some of the quietest in the world. There is more awareness of the bad health effects of noise in European countries today than in most others worldwide. American cities temporarily became concerned around the 1970’s, but despite more noise than ever now, they’re now less willing to take action than in the 70’s. (But the good news is there’s evidence that’s slowly changing.) To read more about these noise issues, see the wonderfully comprehensive article in Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noise_regulation . 

The top five quietest cities in the world are all in Europe: Zurich, Vienna, Oslo, Munich, and Stockholm, according to the World Economic Forum. In addition to Munich, three other German cities are in the quietest top 10: Dusseldorf, Hamburg, and Cologne. The criteria used included measuring the sound of music and TVs in restaurants and shops along with all the aforementioned types of industrial noise. The site says the world’s noisiest city is Delhi, followed by Cairo, Mumbai, Istanbul, and Beijing. The only US city among the quietest on this particular list is Portland (the list doesn’t say whether that’s the one in Oregon or Maine but I’m assuming Oregon). Some of the U.S. cities In the moderate range are New York, Houston, Detroit, Chicago, Birmingham, and San Francisco. I think New York may have managed to get a moderate position partly because of Central Park, and Battery Park City, a planned community that’s so uniquely separate from the city that you can be close in, yet experience quiet and lots of nature in that park and along the water. To see the chart of noisiest and quietest cities go to ttps://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/03/these-are-the-cities-with-the-worst-noise-pollution/

For a more personal viewpoint of one woman who traveled to a number of US cities in search of quiet places to take a vacation, blogger Jessie of Jessie on a Journey lists as the quietest of those she visited Durham, NC, Cape Cod, MA (not actually a city ), Hartford, CT, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Des Moines, Iowa. She lists the loudest as New York, Detroit, San Francisco, Miami, and Chicago. (See Jessie on a Journey at (https://jessieonajourney.com/usa-quiet-and-loud-cities/.)

In any case it’s likely that If you do live in a U.S. city of any size you often suffer from unwanted, disturbing noise. Noise complaints and new organizations formed to fight noise are common in many U.S cities now. It’s sad and in fact I believe unethical that citizens have to fight so hard for what it seems should be their right not to be assaulted by others’ health-damaging noise, especially since, as you’ll see in my next noise post, so much of it is unnecessary.

So what’s the noise really doing to us? At the web site The Network for Public Health Law, you can see a litany of different types of noise complaints from around the country. The first sentence in its intro is telling: “Community noise can be detrimental to public health. Adverse health effects include cardiovascular problems and learning deficits. Studies indicate the incidence of heart disease increases as community noise levels rise above 40 decibels (db).” And, “Noise is the subject of tens of thousands of complaints to government and citizens, who often cite noise as a significant quality of life issue.” I found it intriguing to learn on the site that noise complaints have been with us for centuries. In sixth century BC a Greek council created a sort of zoning ordinance that required noisy tradesmen to do all their work outside of city walls. Sounds good to me. For more go to https://www.networkforphl.org/_asset/3rvh8q/5-23-13Survey_of_noise_activity_4.pdf . 

Besides the physical effects mentioned above, noise is having significant effects on mental health. Many people  feel isolated and even lonely now (who did not before) because they simply can’t go into most stores or restaurants or even coffee shops they used to enjoy. This is also happening to many UK citizens who can no longer go to the pubs that used to be their main venue for socializing. This is bad news since loneliness is such a problem there that there’s now a Minister of Loneliness. It’s a growing problem here too, and often associated with depression and increasingly mental illness. Community–and not isolation–is best for human thriving. Research shows repeatedly that too much isolation is unhealthy, from infancy on.

I’ve met others who feel hopeless about escaping noise, and then depressed (hopelessness often leads to depression). They see they have little control over their quality of life, since it’s scary and often useless to ask for noise relief and it’s lonely when you’re shut out of places you used to enjoy and that helped you get out into the world. Again, humans are social creatures and unwanted isolation is known by researchers to be extremely bad for mental and ultimately physical health.

So people now often find not only do they miss coffee shops where they used to see and meet many other people, but they no longer can find any peaceful place to have even a few minutes outside their own homes in nature, maybe just to sit on their own balconies or front steps. This is rarely possible from morning till night in more and more places. This is happening to people regardless of sex (noise is not just a “woman’s thing,”) age, ethnicity, or occupation. Younger people who think they “get used to” noise often don’t realize it’s still damaging their hearing and raising their blood pressures.

Real hopelessness due to loud noise was plain to see in my former neighbor, a U.S. Air Force jet fighter pilot who has flown missions in Afghanistan, and was working on a graduate degree when he was back in the states. He very much wanted and needed to have dinner at 5 or 6 with his young family on the balcony overlooking their small yard after grueling days at grad school. Yet this hero hardly ever could have this modest enough pleasure because of the chronic presence, even at that time of day, of the many yard work teams (often hired by absent landlords who don’t have to hear the noise) that descended on the neighborhood (and still do) almost every day because of our town’s cruelly lax noise laws. He would get depressed about this, and told me he felt hopeless because in the past his requests for relief were ignored. He and his family had lived in Germany for awhile and he said it was quieter there. He deserved better. He lives in another city now, and I hope for him and his family that it’s a quieter one.

To make stressful matters in our lives worse, researchers say we desperately need more nature in order to thrive, yet most of us barely get a whiff of it compared to early humans who lived close to nature much of the time. Such nature starvation is especially severe in cities. Right now most nature we can find in the city and increasingly anywhere else doesn’t promote wellbeing as it used to because it’s so often accompanied by industrial noise and fumes, loud car radios, and even loud people who shout at each other (when they used to just talk) and who shout on their phones on their porch or steps, ruining your own badly needed quiet time on your porch or steps. (Other writers have noted, as you may have, that Americans, at least lately, are just plain loud.) 

A typical event at home could go something like this: you go outside for a few quite minutes in nature in your yard or on a balcony, and the neighbor drags out his leaf-blower. What can you do? Risk an enraged or even threatening response (this happened to my husband) or go back inside and shut all the windows.  I’m delighted to report that occasionally someone is nicer, such as another of our neighbors, who told us he had no idea the blower bothered people. He was kind and turned it off, for awhile anyway. Sadly, this response is rare.  

Occupants of the many homes and apartments close to all but the quietest streets rarely can open their windows or go outside because of noise and exhaust. A motorcycle and one of the cars in my neighborhood both sound like the apocalypse when they go down our street. This problem too is common in many U.S. neighborhoods despite laws against it, laws that appear not to be very effective in many cases). In New Jersey alone in 2017, over 2800 summons had been issued for super-noisy vehicles just from January through September. For more, go to https://www.nj.com/traffic/index.ssf/2017/09/do_cops_actually_write_tickets_for_loud_exhaust_systems_we_checked.html .

Loud Noise is often Accompanied by Health Hazards

Besides leaf-blowers’ terrible noise, we see in a report sent by investigators to the Lincoln, MA Board of Health an array of scary components of their exhaust that anyone close to users will be breathing in, and that get into the soil and water. The report says these include the volatile organic compounds benzene, 1,3 butadiene, acetaldehyde, and formaldehyde—all of which are labeled as HAPs or “Hazardous air pollutants,” that “can cause or may cause cancer and other serious health effects.” Then there are nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen carbon, and particulate matter, labeled by the report as carcinogenic and/or ozone-causing. The particulate matter is composed of a mix of acids, organic chemicals, metals, soil, and dust.

The report compares the effects on the environment of a Ford Raptor Truck’s and a leaf-blower’s hydrocarbon emissions: 30 minutes of running a leaf-blower with a 2-stroke engine equals a 3,900 mile drive in a Raptor. Comparing for non-methane hydrocarbons, the leaf-blower generates 23 times the carbon monoxide and about 300 times more hydrocarbons than the Raptor. The leaf-blower’s particulate matter alone can include animal fecal matter, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, allergens such as fungal spores and pollen, diesel soot, brake dust, rubber tire particles, and toxic metals such as arsenic, chromium, lead, and mercury.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what you’ll be breathing today as you tend your garden next to the yard using the lawn care team. Or, if you just walk by with your dog or your children, who breathe it too. It’s even harder on their ears and lungs than yours. The fumes and particles also hang out in the air for awhile, then settle into dust and any water that’s around. I’ve even seen workers blow dust and leaves or just plain dust from the yard they’re working on into the next yard (where children may play) or on the sidewalk where people walk with kids and dogs. In Harvard Square I recently saw over a period of several days that one worker regularly blew both dust and litter into water drains leading to Boston’s beloved Charles River (yes that’s illegal here). 

How you can Help Yourself & Others

Here’s more technical information you might want to add to the above Lincoln, MA report in order to understand and explain to your town council and local businesses the harmful effects of loud noise and of gas-powered equipment’s noise and fumes. Among comments on the pollution from yard equipment and other smaller gas-powered machinery from California Air Resources Board’s “Small Engine Fact Sheet” is yet another comparison of environmental effects of driving a vehicle with using this machinery, in this case both a lawnmower and a leaf-blower:

“Today, operating the best-selling commercial lawn mower for one hour emits as much smog-forming pollution as driving the best-selling 2017 passenger car, a Toyota Camry, about 300 miles – approximately the distance from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. For the best-selling commercial leaf blower, one hour of operation emits smog-forming pollution comparable to driving a 2017 Toyota Camry about 1100 miles, or approximately the distance from Los Angeles to Denver.” (The Seattle Globalist, at http://www.seattleglobalist.com/2017/09/25/leaf-blowers-flagged-as-polluters-possible-health-threat/68802).

California has done better than many states in combatting noise or at least attempting to, with a number of cities there having completely banned gas-powered leaf-blowers. The Globalist writers say it still struggles against resistant tool companies (such as the big producer of gas-powered machinery Briggs & Stratton) in the state’s fight to protect workers and everyone else from the devastation to health and environment caused by this machinery. Yard workers themselves have complained of headaches, nausea, effects of hours of loud noise exposure that the CDC says will cause hearing loss without ear protection (and most don’t wear protection), and other health problems.

Despite the use of millions of these machines, there’s been relatively little testing, but even “improved” versions of them “still emit toxic contaminants such as carcinogenic benzene as well as surprisingly large amounts of other smog-forming chemicals.” Did you read that right? We’re talking about cancer-causing chemicals in the air here.

Highlighting the immediate medical dangers to us all, Jo Kay Ghosh, epidemiologist and health effects officer for the South Coast AirQuality Management District, a pollution control agency covering much of southern California (where there’s plenty of smog) says in the article “the smaller the particle, the deeper it can be inhaled into the lungs, and the more potential it has then to cause health problems” such as lung cancer, heart disease, asthma, and other respiratory ailments. She adds that ultra fine particles can even pass through cell membranes and slip into the bloodstream.

The writers say unpublished preliminary research by California regulators (to be followed with a more formal study) suggests that the equipment operators were exposed to at least 10 times more ultra fine particles than if they were standing beside a busy roadway. (They also mention a worker who suffered from migraines every day until he switched to a job where electric rather than gas-powered equipment was used.)

I recommend the Globalist article to help you understand and/or communicate the full impact of what these machines are doing to all of us, our pets, our kids, wildlife, and the planet. And yet the writers don’t have space to even begin to cover all the other gas-powered machines affecting our psyches and health besides gas-powered yard equipment, such as those in many gas-powered vehicles.

While many of us may have expected that gas-powered vehicles would have become illegal by now due to the obvious climate crisis we’re experiencing, not only has that not occurred, but there are in fact more and more of them including diesel engines (with their own uniquely dangerous exhaust) on our residential streets.  At least California is working hard to battle all small gas-powered motors including chain saws and other construction equipment that drive a lot of us crazy on residential streets. Later, after I’ve done more research, I hope to list some companies making cleaner, quieter equipment. I know they’re out there because there’s now a successful yard work company near me in Concord, MA using all-electric equipment.

Meanwhile I’ll be posting more on the effects on us of industrial noise and fumes, on extremely damaging-to-health sound systems in almost all retail stores and restaurants, and what we can do about these problems that add so much suffering to already-stressed Americans’ lives. These solutions include a number of quieter, cleaner-running machines you can find online right now.

5G–New, fast, profitable, & possibly quite dangerous

Susan Cooke

Please pardon my long absence, caused by a need for lots of time  to research an upcoming post designed to help people find cleaner-running, quieter landscape tools, and therefore find city life a little less stressful. I interrupted that work to bring up something really important that I feel can’t wait. Let’s look at a new technology that may be affecting your health soon:  It’s called 5G.

Below are several links to articles I’ve found on 5G and the cell towers that apparently are going to be inflicted on all of us (lots and lots of them) without much concern for possible health effects. Personally I have enough to do battling and living with city stress both for myself and others already. It’s upsetting to me that  no matter what we do to be healthy–which is challenge enough in the modern world– we may have our efforts sabotaged by thousands of new barely-studied 5G cell towers near us, and have no control over what they might do to us. We already live and work in buildings full of people using a wide array of electromagnetic equipment about which there’s still not conclusive evidence of safety.  We have pretty much the same human body we did centuries ago but it wasn’t exposed to all this stuff 24/7.

If you’re concerned or want to know more, I hope you’ll take a look at these articles. I’ll mention a few more things before the articles come up below.

I’ve seen a variety of opinions on EMFs (electromagnetic fields), but I still find enough negatives to make me want to insist on no further electromagnetic radiation near where I live.  An accomplished software engineer I know says he doesn’t see that the new 5G technology is that necessary, especially if it puts people’s health at risk. He says instead what we need is faster connections to people’s houses, which you can do with  just wires only. (Full disclosure,  I’m married to the software engineer. His name is Victor Preston.)

We figured at our house we’re probably already swimming in electromagnetic radiation, and it’s likely you are too. We now turn wifi off at night so at least we’re not sleeping in so much of it.  (This was recommended to me by a book I read on possible causes of auto-immune illnesses.) Still, as a person with a PTSD brain and who seems to have a couple of ailments there are no explanations for (blood tests normal) like chronic fatigue) I’m not happy about having another not-well-understood threat added to the mix I’m living in. My understanding is none of us has the power to say “No” to these towers. As one article states it, they’re coming, period. That’s pretty pushy, wouldn’t you say? What I think we need to do then is block this technological “advance” until its proven safe for adults, kids, and animals.

Why not delay it until it’s known for certain not to cause harm? And if it does cause harm it clearly must be redesigned or scrapped. We’re going to be exposed to this stuff for most hours–maybe all hours–of every day. What’s the big hurry?  I suspect the usual–big money.

Unless and until  there’s proof all this activity in our environment is not already making people sick, we shouldn’t  allow ourselves to be bullied into accepting even more of it that’s even more untested.  If we don’t stop this plan to dump these towers on us, and we do get sicker, the companies profiting from them will likely just find ways to blame any resulting illnesses on something else.

Some people are already planning to uproot themselves and move just to get away from the towers (but where can they go?) This works further to destroy sense of community, which this country desperately needs more of–and it’s another way the towers will harm wellbeing. The companies–and also governments allowing the towers–should also consider what they may likely have to pay for the lawsuits that will likely show up later due to illness if they charge ahead.

The time to investigate and to protest is now, before they put all the towers up. I feel bad for the initial test cities, which you’ll see listed in one of the articles. Did those people have any say in the matter? In one of the articles you’ll see that one resident expects property values to go down a lot when the towers come since most people in her area don’t want them. I honestly don’t see how this many towers can be shoved on us all without asking our permission and with so much ignorance about future results. I saw a figure of 800,000 by 2026 for the US.  And even if a neighborhood wants them (I doubt that will happen given the risk) each house should be able to say no.

I’m all for technology making our lives better but when health is endangered and anxiety over the technology causes stress and the increased depression often caused by added prolonged stress, the change is not better.  Ignoring such concerns shows a lack of respect for people’s peace of mind, something too little attention is paid to already by government and business, and which deeply affects wellbeing and health and therefore the very length of our lives. It looks as if we’re going to need to stand up to protect our health and wellbeing since government is failing to do it,  and because profit can and often does roll over a people like a tank. As I say ad nauseam, enough money is one thing; more and more profit no matter the cost to health of people and the planet is another.

Those planning on big profits from 5G need to keep in mind the potential increased healthcare costs caused by more illness, not to mention the suffering. Is it worth the trade-off, especially if you’re making the public angry in the process?

I don’t want to be part of this experiment, or for you to be either. Too often in the past  we’ve accepted new technologies without asking enough questions and demanding proof of safety.  I believe a good chance to have a healthier, less angst-ridden life is a basic human right, and government and industry need to be reminded of this constantly.

I’ve already written two of my reps in Congress about 5G, and I hope you’ll do the same if you’re concerned. My  purpose in this blog and in my book is to find ways to increase wellbeing for all living things, and to show that profit need not always be king. Yes 5G does some helpful things, but it doesn’t seem near worth the possible price. If it’s forced on us where I live, I don’t know what I’ll do or where we can go, and am feeling more anxiety because of it–not good for the immune system! (By the way the towers don’t look that great either and would not be a garden enhancement for sure.)

Here’s a novel idea:  How about these big companies taking a kinder, wellbeing-promoting route? I urge them companies to make their money on something known to be safe. If they can’t find safer communication technology, they could turn their vast innovative powers to other businesses desperately needed to make life healthier. They could for example replace some of the many toxic chemicals the FDA allows with safer ingredients. They could work on ways to grow more healthy plant food and feed more people, or find ways to house more people. Instead they’re promoting possible increased illness and more of the chronic anxiety already rampant in our society by forcing 5G on us.

Before getting to the articles on 5G, I want to mention, for those of you who are interested, what I also just read about transformer boxes (a related issue). If you want to skip it just go to the next paragraph after the link to an article discussing these boxes.

We made a point when choosing our house not to get one near one of those transformer boxes on poles we were warned might have bad effects on health. I just read in a response by an aerospace scientist to one of the articles that the bigger wires running from those boxes may be also be a big health problem. To see an interesting discussion on transformers alone and on the effect of “hum” and vibrations related to them (all news to me),  go to this link:

https://www.quora.com/How-dangerous-is-electrical-transformer-for-human-health-if-it-is-near-to-house

Below are the articles. If 5G makes you nervous I hope you’ll alert those in power in business and government, including local government, that you’re worried and that you don’t want it around until and unless it’s proven to be 100% safe for health (which I doubt can happen for some time if ever).

Meanwhile, stay well and I’ll be back soon with quieter landscape options. Here are the article links and a couple of comments on some of them:


The first, from CBS News, includes some photos. Note that one person interviewed feels she’ll have to move to avoid living next to a tower.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/5g-network-cell-towers-raise-health-concerns-for-some-residents/

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This next article details some of the worries about 5G’s health effects including some studies. It’s thorough, alarming, and I think proof this is not a good idea, at least not as it’s now planned, and it should not be forced on us:

Why 5G Cell Towers Are More Dangerous


Next an important article from Environmental Health Trust:

For this one please just google “5G and the IOT: Scientific Overview of Human Health Risks”   (Sorry, I can’t make a link on some of these without pulling up a big piece of the article. If searching for this title doesn’t work, please go to the main site first, which is:  Environmental Health Trust, then search for the 5G title.)


Here’s one from ConsumerWatch (I had same problem with making a link with this one):  Please google “ConsumerWatch: 5G Cellphone Towers Signal Renewed Concerns Over Impacts on Health”


And from UK’s Daily Mail:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5784487/The-roll-5G-wireless-service-massive-health-experiment-public-health-expert-warns-a.html

The above UK report (which is mostly about the US) states that some studies have already linked older wireless service generations to cancers of the reproductive system and heart, and 5G health effects have hardly been studied yet. But still the plan is, without asking us, to inundate us with some 800,000 new cell towers to support 5G. (The report says now we have 154,000.)

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These articles and reports make clear that it’s highly irresponsible, unethical, and, might I say, greedy, to bulldoze over the entire US population with hundreds of thousands of new cell towers we certainly can’t trust to be safe.

Industrial Noise and Fumes, & their Effects on Health

Susan Cooke

This is an updated and clarified post and reminder of how we’re affected by industrial noise, how we can help others by limiting the noise we make, and how we can begin to persuade government and business to help us find more quiet in our daily lives in the city, including quiet in the few bits of nature we can find there. Research increasingly shows we’re starved for time in nature without industrial noise, and that loud noise in general is decreasing wellbeing and adding to illness.

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Do you ever find that there’s no place near home where you can experience even a few minutes of quiet time in some green space like a garden or park, or even your own yard, porch, or balcony (emphasis on the word quiet)? How many times can you go outside or just open your windows on a lovely day without hearing leaf-blowers, giant lawnmowers, diesel trucks, jets overhead, or construction equipment? Do you go into your garden if you have one, to take a moment to smell the roses or some other flowers you planted, or just to hear the breeze rustling the leaves, and get a lungful of nearby leaf-blower or diesel exhaust along with an earful of roaring noise? Do you get blasted with loud sound systems or TVs in every eatery or store you enter? Do you ever say “enough” to the ever-increasing noise assaults of all kinds? Did you know that besides the stress you feel, and even if you don’t feel it as much as many others do, that so much exposure to all these loud sound assaults, and in the case of engines, their exhaust, is harmful to your health?  

In my town, a small city next to Boston, you can take what you might hope will be a quiet walk as late as 6 or 7 pm and still be forced to hear or inhale, on street after street, noise and fumes from leaf-blowers, giant lawnmowers, weed-whackers, power saws, sanders, stone-cutting equipment, and more. When you add this to the many loud and smelly (and unhealthy for you and the planet) oil trucks, huge UPS trucks, and souped-up motorcycles, you can see you’re living in a chronically toxic atmosphere humans were never exposed to for most of their existence but now experience constantly. 

Our nervous systems haven’t changed much and they don’t react well to this onslaught. While many Americans suffer from hearing such noises most of the day and into the evening, these practices at these hours are illegal in many cities in the world. Noise laws are generally lax in the U.S. In my town and from my research, in many others, the loose laws are clearly designed to make landscape and construction businesses happy, along with a few residents on every street who are in love with their own private stash of power equipment, all of whom are seemingly unable to consider how anyone else may be very stressed by the noise and fumes or even by the effects on their own health.

There is similar lack of empathy in legions of restaurant and store owners who now regularly torture many of their customers (and employees) with sound often loud enough to damage hearing, cause headaches, and raise blood pressure for hours after the exposure. I’ve noticed that the sound systems tend to become louder every year, unless many people request that the volume be turned down (and mostly that doesn’t happen because often such requests are met with surprising hostility). I and many people I’ve interviewed are finding we’re more and more uncomfortable everywhere we go. Lately the music has moved from fairly annoying to sounding like World War III in some of these places, starting as early as 6:30 in the morning when customers’ eyes are barely open. My own experience has convinced me that torture by noise (yes, noise has been used to torture) must be quite effective.

In many American cities, attempts by residents to ease their noise burden are met with passivity, stubborn resistance, or even rage. Heads in the sand, oblivious to the pleas by suffering residents, many city, state, and national leaders put noise on the bottom of their priority lists. This is hard to understand when healthcare costs are so high and the effects on health of noise and fumes are so egregious. In my town loud noise is allowed 7 am to 7 pm on weekdays, and is hardly better on weekends (including Sundays)—8 am to 7 pm.

This kind of schedule would astound people in some other countries whose governments are sensitive to this problem. In Germany, making others suffer with your noise is understood to be rude and to cause stress. As you’ll see below, German cities and some other European ones such as Stockholm are some of the quietest in the world. There is more awareness of the bad health effects of noise in European countries today than in most others worldwide. American cities temporarily became concerned around the 1970’s, but despite more noise than ever now, they’re now less willing to take action than in the 70’s. (But the good news is there’s evidence that’s slowly changing.) To read more about these noise issues, see the wonderfully comprehensive article in Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noise_regulation . 

The top five quietest cities in the world are all in Europe: Zurich, Vienna, Oslo, Munich, and Stockholm, according to the World Economic Forum. In addition to Munich, three other German cities are in the quietest top 10: Dusseldorf, Hamburg, and Cologne. The criteria used included measuring the sound of music and TVs in restaurants and shops along with all the aforementioned types of industrial noise. The site says the world’s noisiest city is Delhi, followed by Cairo, Mumbai, Istanbul, and Beijing. The only US city among the quietest on this particular list is Portland (the list doesn’t say whether that’s the one in Oregon or Maine but I’m assuming Oregon). Some of the U.S. cities In the moderate range are New York, Houston, Detroit, Chicago, Birmingham, and San Francisco. I think New York may have managed to get a moderate position partly because of Central Park, and Battery Park City, a planned community that’s so uniquely separate from the city that you can be close in, yet experience quiet and lots of nature in that park and along the water. To see the chart of noisiest and quietest cities go to ttps://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/03/these-are-the-cities-with-the-worst-noise-pollution/

For a more personal viewpoint of one woman who traveled to a number of US cities in search of quiet places to take a vacation, blogger Jessie of Jessie on a Journey lists as the quietest of those she visited Durham, NC, Cape Cod, MA (not actually a city ), Hartford, CT, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Des Moines, Iowa. She lists the loudest as New York, Detroit, San Francisco, Miami, and Chicago. (See Jessie on a Journey at (https://jessieonajourney.com/usa-quiet-and-loud-cities/.)

In any case it’s likely that If you do live in a U.S. city of any size you often suffer from unwanted, disturbing noise. Noise complaints and new organizations formed to fight noise are common in many U.S cities now. It’s sad and in fact I believe unethical that citizens have to fight so hard for what it seems should be their right not to be assaulted by others’ health-damaging noise, especially since, as you’ll see in my next noise post, so much of it is unnecessary.

So what’s the noise really doing to us? At the web site The Network for Public Health Law, you can see a litany of different types of noise complaints from around the country. The first sentence in its intro is telling: “Community noise can be detrimental to public health. Adverse health effects include cardiovascular problems and learning deficits. Studies indicate the incidence of heart disease increases as community noise levels rise above 40 decibels (db).” And, “Noise is the subject of tens of thousands of complaints to government and citizens, who often cite noise as a significant quality of life issue.” I found it intriguing to learn on the site that noise complaints have been with us for centuries. In sixth century BC a Greek council created a sort of zoning ordinance that required noisy tradesmen to do all their work outside of city walls. Sounds good to me. For more go to https://www.networkforphl.org/_asset/3rvh8q/5-23-13Survey_of_noise_activity_4.pdf . 

Besides the physical effects mentioned above, noise is having significant effects on mental health. Many people  feel isolated and even lonely now (who did not before) because they simply can’t go into most stores or restaurants or even coffee shops they used to enjoy. This is also happening to many UK citizens who can no longer go to the pubs that used to be their main venue for socializing. This is bad news since loneliness is such a problem there that there’s now a Minister of Loneliness. It’s a growing problem here too, but I’ll save that for another post. I’ve met others who feel hopeless about escaping noise, and then depressed (hopelessness often leads to depression). They see they have little control over their quality of life, since it’s scary and often useless to ask for noise relief and it’s lonely when you’re shut out of places you used to enjoy and that helped you get out into the world. Humans are social creatures and unwanted isolation is known by researchers to be extremely bad for mental and ultimately physical health.

So people now often find not only do they miss coffee shops where they used to see and meet many other people, but they no longer can find any peaceful place to have even a few minutes outside their own homes in nature, maybe just to sit on their own balconies or front steps. This is rarely possible from morning till night in more and more places. This is happening to people regardless of sex (noise is not just a “woman’s thing”, ethnicity, or occupation.

Such hopelessness was plain to see in my former neighbor, a U.S. Air Force jet fighter pilot who has flown missions in Afghanistan, and was working on a graduate degree when he was back in the states. He very much wanted and needed to have dinner at 5 or 6 with his young family on the balcony overlooking their small yard after grueling days at grad school. Yet this hero hardly ever could have this modest enough pleasure because of the chronic presence, even at that time of day, of the many yard work teams (often hired by absent landlords who don’t have to hear the noise) that descended on the neighborhood (and still do) almost every day because of our town’s cruelly lax noise laws. He would get depressed about this, and told me he felt hopeless because in the past his requests for relief were ignored. He and his family had lived in Germany for awhile and he said it was quieter there. He deserved better. He lives in another city now, and I hope for him and his family that it’s a quieter one.

To make matters worse, researchers say we desperately need more nature in our lives in order to thrive, yet most of us barely get a whiff of it compared to early humans who lived close to nature much of the time. Right now most nature we can find in the city and increasingly anywhere doesn’t promote wellbeing as it used to because it’s so often accompanied by industrial noise and fumes, loud car radios, and even loud people who shout at each other (when they used to just talk) and who shout on their phones on their porch or steps, ruining your own badly needed quiet time on your porch or steps. (Other writers have noted, as you may have, that Americans, at least lately, are just plain loud.) 

A typical event could go something like this: you do go outside for a few quite minutes (you hope) in nature if, say you have a garden or a nice yard with a few trees, and the neighbor drags out his leaf-blower. What can you do? Risk an enraged or even threatening response (this happened to my husband) or go back inside and shut all the windows.  I’m delighted to report that occasionally someone, such as another of our neighbors, tells us he had no idea the blower bothered people. He was kind and turned it off, for awhile anyway. But sadly, this response is rare.  

Let’s face facts. Researchers say we need relief from noise and we need more nature in order to thrive, yet in American cities today both are extremely hard to come by. Noise comes from all directions at increasing numbers of hours, noise that includes, besides construction, lawn equipment, and retail noise (noise inside stores and restaurants, who also sometimes blast it onto the streets), more and more jets and helicopters over our homes day and night, loud (and polluting) diesel trucks, and “modified” vehicles made artificially loud (illegal in many states but apparently hard to enforce).

A motorcycle and also one of the cars in my neighborhood both sound like the apocalypse when they go down our street. This problem too is common in many U.S. neighborhoods despite laws against it, laws that appear not to be very effective in many cases). In New Jersey alone in 2017, over 2800 summons had been issued for super-noisy vehicles just from January through September. For more, go to https://www.nj.com/traffic/index.ssf/2017/09/do_cops_actually_write_tickets_for_loud_exhaust_systems_we_checked.html .

Loud Noise is often Accompanied by Health Hazards

Besides leaf-blowers’ terrible noise, we see in a report sent by investigators to the Lincoln, MA Board of Health an array of scary components of their exhaust that anyone close to users will be breathing in, and that get into the soil and water. The report says these include the volatile organic compounds benzene, 1,3 butadiene, acetaldehyde, and formaldehyde—all of which are labeled as HAPs or “Hazardous air pollutants,” that “can cause or may cause cancer and other serious health effects.” Then there are nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen carbon, and particulate matter, labeled by the report as carcinogenic and/or ozone-causing. The particulate matter is composed of a mix of acids, organic chemicals, metals, soil, and dust.

The report compares the effects on the environment of a Ford Raptor Truck’s and a leaf-blower’s hydrocarbon emissions: 30 minutes of running a leaf-blower with a 2-stroke engine equals a 3,900 mile drive in a Raptor. Comparing for non-methane hydrocarbons, the leaf-blower generates 23 times the carbon monoxide and about 300 times more hydrocarbons than the Raptor. The leaf-blower’s particulate matter alone can include animal fecal matter, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, allergens such as fungal spores and pollen, diesel soot, brake dust, rubber tire particles, and toxic metals such as arsenic, chromium, lead, and mercury.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what you’ll be breathing today as you tend your garden next to the yard using the lawn care team. Or, if you just walk by with your dog or your children, who breathe it too. It’s even harder on their ears and lungs than yours. The fumes and particles also hang out in the air for awhile, then settle into dust and any water that’s around. I’ve even seen workers blow dust and leaves or just plain dust from the yard they’re working on into the next yard (where children may play) or on the sidewalk where people walk with kids and dogs. In Harvard Square I recently saw over a period of several days that one worker regularly blew both dust and litter into water drains leading to Boston’s beloved Charles River (yes that’s illegal here). 

How you can Help Yourself & Others

Here’s more technical information you might want to add to the above Lincoln, MA report in order to understand and explain to your town council and local businesses the harmful effects of loud noise and of gas-powered equipment’s noise and fumes. Among comments on the pollution from yard equipment and other smaller gas-powered machinery from California Air Resources Board’s “Small Engine Fact Sheet” is yet another comparison of environmental effects of driving a vehicle with using this machinery, in this case both a lawnmower and a leaf-blower:

“Today, operating the best-selling commercial lawn mower for one hour emits as much smog-forming pollution as driving the best-selling 2017 passenger car, a Toyota Camry, about 300 miles – approximately the distance from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. For the best-selling commercial leaf blower, one hour of operation emits smog-forming pollution comparable to driving a 2017 Toyota Camry about 1100 miles, or approximately the distance from Los Angeles to Denver.” (The Seattle Globalist, at http://www.seattleglobalist.com/2017/09/25/leaf-blowers-flagged-as-polluters-possible-health-threat/68802).

California has done better than many states in combatting noise or at least attempting to, with a number of cities there having completely banned gas-powered leaf-blowers. The Globalist writers say it still struggles against resistant tool companies (such as the big producer of gas-powered machinery Briggs & Stratton) in the state’s fight to protect workers and everyone else from the devastation to health and environment caused by this machinery. Yard workers themselves have complained of headaches, nausea, effects of hours of loud noise exposure that the CDC says will cause hearing loss without ear protection (and most don’t wear protection), and other health problems.

Despite the use of millions of these machines, there’s been relatively little testing, but even “improved” versions of them “still emit toxic contaminants such as carcinogenic benzene as well as surprisingly large amounts of other smog-forming chemicals.” Did you read that right? We’re talking about cancer-causing chemicals in the air here.

Highlighting the immediate medical dangers to us all, Jo Kay Ghosh, epidemiologist and health effects officer for the South Coast AirQuality Management District, a pollution control agency covering much of southern California (where there’s plenty of smog) says in the article “the smaller the particle, the deeper it can be inhaled into the lungs, and the more potential it has then to cause health problems” such as lung cancer, heart disease, asthma, and other respiratory ailments. She adds that ultra fine particles can even pass through cell membranes and slip into the bloodstream.

The writers say unpublished preliminary research by California regulators (to be followed with a more formal study) suggests that the equipment operators were exposed to at least 10 times more ultra fine particles than if they were standing beside a busy roadway. (They also mention a worker who suffered from migraines every day until he switched to a job where electric rather than gas-powered equipment was used.)

I recommend the Globalist article to help you understand and/or communicate the full impact of what these machines are doing to all of us, our pets, our kids, wildlife, and the planet. And yet the writers don’t have space to even begin to cover all the other gas-powered machines affecting our psyches and health besides gas-powered yard equipment, such as those in many gas-powered vehicles.

While many of us may have expected that gas-powered vehicles would have become illegal by now due to the obvious climate crisis we’re experiencing, not only has that not occurred, but there are in fact more and more of them including diesel engines (with their own uniquely dangerous exhaust) on our residential streets.  At least California is working hard to battle all small gas-powered motors including chain saws and other construction equipment that drive a lot of us crazy on residential streets. Later, after I’ve done more research, I hope to list some companies making cleaner, quieter equipment. I know they’re out there because there’s now a successful yard work company near me in Concord, MA using all-electric equipment.

Meanwhile I’ll be posting more on the effects on us of industrial noise and fumes, on extremely damaging-to-health sound systems in almost all retail stores and restaurants, and what we can do about these problems that add so much suffering to already-stressed Americans’ lives. These solutions include a number of quieter, cleaner-running machines you can find online right now.

Trump, Hopelessness, and Depression

Susan Cooke

 

Trump, Hopelessness, and Depression

It’s taking me longer than I’d like to finish my book on stress in American cities, a book that I hope will help all of us, especially if our legislators and business leaders pay attention. I address many stresses in the book, some of which I cover in this blog, and one point I return to often is the way chronic stress affects us both mentally and physically, hammering away at our brains, our moods, for many of us causing migraines and lack of sleep, and ultimately when it gets bad enough making us physically ill by increasing blood pressure and in other ways contributing to heart disease and other ills. You probably already know that stress has been shown many times by research to affect our quality of life and even how long we live. 

What I did not so far include in my discussions of all the stresses, because it wasn’t around when I began the book, was the gut-wrenching, happiness-destroying, anxiety-inducing, chaos-pushing, rudeness and crudeness-modeling, insulting-to-allies and embarrassing-to-Americans behavior of the current wrecking-ball residing in the White House. He is, if you ask anyone I know, the cause of a slew of destructive mental and physical symptoms from chronic worry, anxiety, and even panic, to insomnia to real hopelessness, all of which can turn into depression—a huge problem already in our country and worldwide. (Since legislators are often so concerned with finance, they should know that depression costs our country well over $210 billion a year.)

We suffer everyday shock and awe at Trump’s dictator-like behavior and narcissism, his bullying cruelties, his unprecedented delivery of coy, confusing messages, his turning around of many upsetting things he says, one of the worst of which was his recent glee over the idea of sending Americans to Putin to be questioned (which in the case of one of them was likely to mean certain death), and he didn’t turn that around until those Americans and their families had sweated through several long and fearful days and nights. We also suffer from his and his administration’s increasing secretiveness as with that recent Putin summit, secretiveness that leaves everyone churning in the wind with worry about what might happen next. Therapists sometimes use a term for how he treats the American people: he’s “crazy-making,” and he seems to enjoy the resulting chaos as much as Putin is purported to enjoy the chaos Russia adds to the mix as it tries to turn us against one another..

While we stew in confusion, we also watch helplessly as he destroys the environment, relations with allies, and the lives of desperate immigrants. He’s removed for many of us what little feeling of security we once might have had in a world that includes monsters like Putin. In short, Trump is stressing much of America, and likely shortening our lives right now, all by himself. He’s surely having much the same effect on millions worldwide. We do the world a great disservice by letting him continue, and the only moral and right thing to do seems to be to get him out of office as soon as possible, meanwhile limiting, curbing, and protesting loudly and constantly every step he takes that leads to more destruction. Occasionally he does something good, but these moments are so rare they can’t counterbalance the enormous amount of stress he causes.As I watch Congress react, I find most of them much too placid and not livid enough. I want them to get really angry (but not with weapons!) and stop all this destruction of so many facets of our country and our freedom we hold dear.

What he’s done to the environment alone is keeping many people up at night as we watch the horrors of climate change and species extinction multiply right in front of us. What we needed in these difficult times was a leader of extreme intellect and ability, and what we got was a thoughtless, largely incompetent (for this job), and strangely non-empathetic person, who seems to thrive on making people feel awful. He is not in the slightest prepared for the emergencies of climate change such as the moving northward of tropical diseases and the endangering of wilderness lands and wildlife. In general problem-solving he seems mostly unable or unwilling to think ahead more than a few minutes, which to me is one of the most frightening things about him.

I’m stunned at how much he’s gotten away with so far, but to save what quality of life we might still be able to hold onto we need to take more and faster action. I beg Congress to act to repair the damage, and I beg us all to vote people into office who will do the same. Trump as we now know him simply seems too dangerous a choice as continuing leader for a country that needs to remain a beacon for the world. He doesn’t study, he doesn’t know history, and he doesn’t appear to make much use of the amazing brain power available to him. He thinks so highly of himself that he doesn’t think he needs to do any of those things I just listed, and that is not leading. A good leader prepares deeply and makes good things happen, or clearly tries to, and inspires and serves as a shining example to others. 

I realize many of Trump’s base may feel less stressed than before, but now that we understand better what their needs are, can we not help those people and address those issues without all this destructive fallout? Surely we have the ability and the smarts in this highly educated country to lift everyone in ways that we know they need but that don’t do this kind of harm in the process. But to do this we need a leader who is not mostly concerned with himself and his whims at the expense of the entire world. We need a leader devoted to undoing and stopping damage to the planet, to feeding, housing, caring for, and providing a better life for the poor and desperate in our country and in the world, and to helping others by building, with careful thought, study, consultation, and planning, the many systems and practices we need that are humane and good.

Another reason we need to stay stabilized (that is,Trump-less) and not fall further into fear and hopelessness is that we must work together as a country to keep Putin and other likeminded creatures away from our precious democracy and freedom. We need to remember when we see on TV or online spectacles of conflict and chaos, that Russia may be behind much of it. We’ll need to stand strong together so Putin can’t play us into more chaos so we’re too broken and weak to fight him. We need to stand together with our allies for the same reason.

Meanwhile here are some thoughts on possible ways we could make some other recent terrible events turn out at least somewhat less badly:

Some of Trump’s own millions should go immediately to getting every single parent and child he’s separated back together, and as I’ve mentioned before, to pay for the years of therapy they’ll need. (No, I’m not joking, I really think he should pay.) He should also give at least a thousand-dollar stipend to each family (though it isn’t near enough) to help them start again, wherever they end up living. And most should live here rather than be sent home to die in violent countries or to live in fear until they die. We need lots of workers here right now, so he should keep every person not clearly proven dangerous here in the country (with children) and find them housing and a job, and we DO have the resources for both, especially if money is spent more wisely (not on military parades–an offense to even think about in the face of so much poverty and suffering). I wish he could be made to pay also for the therapy, lost sleep, and illness caused by stress of the millions of Americans suffering deeply every day from the fear and desperation he causes, but I know that won’t happen. 

He (and Sessions) should go to trial for cruel behavior and emotional abuse of those immigrants. I so wish Trump could also be tried for emotional abuse of all Americans caused by increasingly frightening many of them as he acts more and more like a dictator every day, and a rather unstable dictator at that. As I write this the WH has removed phrases from printed versions of the press conference at the Helsinki summit, and decided that there will be no written versions of his phone calls to other leaders. He has told us not to believe what we read or hear on the news. Hardly anyone can figure out from day to day what he really thinks or means to do about anything. Does this sound like our forefathers’ idea of a good leader for the United States of America?

Trump should also send whatever money he was going to have us spend on his military parade directly to Puerto Rico right now, and keep sending more until they are back on their feet and everyone has power, food, meds, and clean water. 

For the wellbeing of the entire world the best thing for Trump to do on top of the above-listed items is resign. A President who regularly causes so much damage to health and wellbeing should not stay or be allowed to stay in office. An enormous apology to us, to the world, and to the founding fathers seems in order too, but we know that’s not going to happen either. In order to make a sincere apology, people need to be able to find within themselves at least a modicum of humility.

Be on the Mountain

Susan Cooke

My attempts at meditation have been spotty. I tried it on and off for some time, and even took a class at the Benson Institute in Boston where they try to help people with physical and/or emotional issues by teaching various forms of meditation, a little yoga, and a good deal of cognitive therapy (where they ask things like “Do you really think that person hates you or do you think maybe they were just having a very bad day?” which is certainly helpful to know about.)

It appears most of us can benefit from some of these practices, especially Americans in our chaotic cities, trying as we must to navigate the many days per year that are stressful for so many reasons. This post though is specifically about something I chanced upon while navigating my own super-stress not so long ago. I was fighting a terrible depression that arose from one of the usual suspects–a prolonged traumatic experience. My trauma was caused by a town tyrant bullying my family out of its few remaining funds as we tried to downsize and move from another city to our tiny new house in the new town. I was afraid through the weeks it continued that we’d end up homeless since our funds were draining fast as we tried to pay rent in the first town where we were living temporarily (and where I knew no one, which made me more vulnerable), and pay the mortgage on the very small house we’d built in the new town. My more resilient husband got some support from colleagues at his office, so luckily he got through the crisis in better shape. I won’t go into details here, but we finally in desperation hired a lawyer who within days he stopped the bully. But it was too late for me. A couple of weeks earlier, I fell one day–or my brain did–into a terrifying dark canyon. I could not eat, and could barely talk. This, I learned, was depression caused by extended traumatic stress. I thought I’d been depressed somewhat at times in the past, but I had no idea it could be like this.

I couldn’t physically tolerate the meds–they dried my eyes so severely I got corneal abrasions. We read books on depression and tried what we could to get me back to something like normal. I discovered after beginning to try meditation and finding it upsetting, that some experts believe it’s not always good to meditate when you’re deep in a depression, and better to wait till you’re climbing out a little. I did the other things they recommend: exercise, being out in sunlight, and being with people more (difficult since I didn’t work in an office and all the coffee shops’ music was so loud I couldn’t last in most more than two minutes). So I was more isolated than was healthy, and while I added more exercise in the sunlight because I knew it would help later, it didn’t feel like it was helping for a long time.

When I felt ready I tried CDs of guided meditation, other CDs that are supposed to help you sleep if that’s part of your problem (it was), and CDs of massage music since I knew some of that might be relaxing. Most didn’t help much, and some made me agitated. Finally I stumbled on some music that used combinations of sounds I found soothing–Native American and Asian flutes, some Eastern-sounding delicate cymbals, and crickets! It all seemed to transport me to a new place where there was a little relief. I’d read it’s helpful to have a restful place in our minds to help us feel calmer, especially when we’re upset, but had wrestled with figuring out what that was for me. This music made it easy to visualize such a place, and once I did I realized it was the only place where I could imagine this music being heard.

I didn’t think about the place much, other than when I imagined it during those few minutes on days when I tried to do something like meditation. But weeks later I noticed that sometimes when I couldn’t relax or felt depressed again, that I was telling myself something new:  “Be on the mountain.”  I realized the place the music had conjured up had become part of me. It was on a mountain, a wide mountain ledge in Nepal (why? I’ve never been to Nepal!)  It was spring or summer, twilight but late enough that stars had begun to appear. Below was a small town with cafes and lights, and a small harbor leading to the ocean. Little boats rocked gently in the harbor, moonlight shone on the waves, and there was a gentle, warm breeze. Behind me on the ledge was a beautiful garden filled with fragrant plants and trees, then more mountain above it. The music came from below, and was played every night so that everyone around–in the harbor, the town, and on the mountain, was at peace, with themselves and with everyone else. Next to me were several much-loved animals–my childhood collie, a horse I rode in the Colorado woods for two summers, two cats who adopted me, the fawn and the lamb I held in my arms both on the same day, and the goat with soulful eyes at a rescue zoo in Maine who never left my side for nearly an hour.

When I am on this mountain, I feel calmer on some nights than others, but the miracle is that I feel calm at all. For a constantly whirling mind this is a great gift. I’ve accepted that it’s okay that this isn’t any particular kind of meditation, as far as I know, and I don’t know if it’s helping my brain a lot or a little, but I’m much better off going there fairly often than I am never going at all. I didn’t think it was possible for this to happen to me, that is, I look forward to those few minutes, whether it’s 3 or 20 or more.

I wish everyone could be on this mountain at least occasionally, feel what I feel there, then take it into their stressed out crazy lives and let it change them a little. In my imagination there is no place or need on the mountain for frantic speed, vast wealth, hatred, violence, gun protection, or cruelty. People are terribly considerate, and love and protect animals and each other. They find ways to live in the modern world that don’t cut them off but are the most peaceful possible, so everyone is soothed by nature every day  (without leaf-blowers and with many fewer aircraft overhead, or at least quiet aircraft which I hear is becoming possible!)  Relieving suffering and creating ways to live a peaceful, healthy life are  also priorities on this mountain. No one goes hungry because there are fruit and vegetable farms everywhere. There are no gas-powered machines of any kind–they’re all electric and quiet–so you can hear the wind in the leaves, and if it’s nighttime focus on the beauty of the stars. The lack of fumes means you can smell the jasmine, lilies, and roses in the gardens.

That’s not so impossible, not so very far from where we are if we put some group effort into getting there, is it? The human body isn’t designed to hear loud motors and smell fumes most of every day–it’s just too stressful, even if you think you’re used to it. Nor are our brains immune to the chronic stress caused by seeing or just knowing that others are suffering. We’ll all be happier and healthier if we live where nature without noise is available to us most of the time, and where we know all who suffer are getting help. For example we need to know our city, state, and country are helping the homeless and hungry right now, all day and every day—that wellbeing is a priority for all leaders. In my ideal place there is just no room left for selfish, narcissistic, or non-caring leaders.

I know I sound naive to many, but I can’t help believing these things are possible because we are as close to being there as we are to being in a much worse place. So why not go for the best one? So I wish for us all that soon we’ll have only caring people in power. I wish for you that soon you find your own mountain (or forest or seashore) and spend some time there.

The CD:

World Flute Lullabies, Native American & Asian Flutes for Sleep Therapy, by Lullaby Tribe (“ioda” seems to be the brand.). Not every cut is perfect, but on the whole it’s the best collection for me, and the third one is about 20 minutes long and one of my favorites. That one is good also if you’re looking for one meditation period about that long. I had to buy 2 copies because the first would not play. I took it off my ipod and use a cd player now for it because it took up too much room (80 minutes) but you could pick the cuts that do the most for you (if this turns out to be the right album for you) and just buy those. This group has made some other albums as well.

 

De-Stressing Music you can Work to

Susan Cooke

*My favorite feel-good-while-working music (as opposed to wild-and-crazy-while-working which I know some people prefer!) includes a selection of jazz, classical, and a few surprisingly wonderful European accordion street music albums, and I thought I’d pass a few of them along to you. Today’s list is some samples of classical music only, and can help you both relax and read, write, think, or sweep the kitchen floor. Many are from the Baroque period (about 1600-1750), whose music I often find especially calming yet energizing, and helps me to do whatever needs to be done. Later in another post I’ll list some jazz and a couple of those accordion selections that do the same thing for me, but which I usually listen to later in the day. I’ll try also to list some pieces from my relaxing jazz list.

I’ve added a few notes for some  selections. Also, I cut and pasted the titles into this post from my iTunes list so sometimes it’s a little confusing due to long titles in other languages. You see the title first, as in “Concerto a Due Cori No. 3, HWV 334,” then the movement and length of that piece I selected, as in “Allegro 2:57,” then the group and conductor, followed by composer (Handel in the first one–“HWV” is the short name for the catalogs of Handel’s work). In some cases after that is another umbrella title such as “The Masterworks.” You can find many other performances of these pieces by other groups that are also very good, but these are some of my favorite groups. The speed, acoustical character, and other aspects of the recordings of this music will often vary with the group. Some groups play some Bach pieces much faster than others for example. I prefer not too fast so I can hear all the wonderful moments clearly.

 

CLASSICAL LIST — Mostly from Baroque period, some from Classical period

 

1. The first piece is performed by one of the best Baroque music groups in the world, and one of the best conductors of (and experts on) the composer Handel, Christopher Hogwood. Handel’s Concertos a Due Cori are for strings and two wind groups (due cori is Italian for two choirs, but there’s no singing).

Concerto a Due Cori No. 3, HWV 334: 2a. Allegro 2:57 Academy of Ancient Music & Christopher Hogwood Handel: The Masterworks

2.  A trio sonata is played by three instruments. This is another star Baroque performance group. There are two selections below from HWV (works of Handel) 405:

Trio Sonata for 2 Recorders and Continuo in F, HWV 405: I. Allegro 1:56 Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Denis Vigay, Elisabeth Selin, George Malcolm & Michala Petri Handel: Complete Wind Sonatas

Trio Sonata for 2 Recorders and Continuo in F, HWV 405: III. Allegro 2:37 Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Denis Vigay, Elisabeth Selin, George Malcolm & Michala Petri Handel: Complete Wind Sonatas

3.  The album listed below is full of wonderful music by Vivaldi and I love most of it though I’ve just given you one example from it. Here is yet another great conductor of Baroque music (Sir Neville Marriner), and again the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, as is no. 2. “La Stravaganza” (The Extravagance) is the name Vivaldi gave this group of pieces for mainly solo violin and orchestra.

12 Violin Concertos, Op. 4, “La Stravaganza,” No. 2: I. Allegro 4:24 Alan Loveday, Sir Neville Marriner & Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Vivaldi: “La Stravaganza”

4.  Yet another group of lovely Vivaldi pieces under a different title, with several conductors and same performing group as nos. 2 and 3. “L’estro armonico” is another group of concertos, this time for string instruments. There’s a wonderful short essay on this group of pieces (and some other interesting stuff related to it) at http://www.hoasm.org/VIIIA/VivaldiLEstroArmonico.html

12 Concertos, Op. 3, “L’estro armonico”: Allegro 2:41 Alan Loveday, Sir Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Carmel Kaine, Christopher Hogwood, Colin Tilney & Robert Spencer Vivaldi: L’estro armonico

5.  I am in love with oboes, and especially the “oboe d’amore,” and listen often to many pieces featuring them. I also love the related instrument, the “English horn.” I’ve listed a few pieces with these instruments for you throughout this list. These wind instruments, in the hands of the right composers and performers, are magical. One of the world’s great oboe players, who plays on several of these albums including the one below, is Albrecht Mayer.

Suite No.11 In D Minor, HWV 437: Sarabande (Arr. For Oboe, Oboe d’amore And English Horn By Andreas Tarkmann) 2:40 Albrecht Mayer, Vocalise

6.  Concerto for Oboe d’amore (From, BWV 209): I. Allegro 6:07 Albrecht Mayer & The English Concert Voices of Bach (Works for Oboe, Choir & Orchestra) Classical

7.  Concerto for Oboe, Strings and Basso Continuo In D Minor, TWV 51:d2: I. Largo 4:05 Albrecht Mayer, Berliner Barock Solisten & Rainer Kussmaul Sinfonia Melodica – Works By Telemann Classical

8. I’m mainly a classical singer but for some time planned a concert career as a violinist. I studied violin for twelve years, and still love to play and to hear it. I very much enjoyed playing Bach and Vivaldi, and there are several Vivaldi pieces featuring the violin on this list as you’ve seen. Vivaldi is such an interesting character, a musician who was ordained as a priest, and due to his red hair was known in his town as The Red Priest. He couldn’t perform masses due to health problems, so he turned to composing and teaching music in an institution that provided training for trades for orphaned boys, and music training for orphaned girls. He was appointed Master of Violin there but composed for all instruments.The most talented of the girls performed in an orchestra so good it became famous worldwide. He wrote most of his great works for these girls, and they must have been extremely well taught by him since much of this beautiful music requires considerable technical skill to play. (Thanks to Biography.com for some of these details.)

Giuliano Carmignola is one of the best performers of Vivaldi violin pieces, and often performs with the Venice Baroque Orchestra, another great group.

Concerto In B Minor for Violin, RV 389: III. Allegro 4:34 Andrea Marcon, Giuliano Carmignola & Venice Baroque Orchestra Vivaldi: Violin Concertos

9. Again from Vivaldi’s “L’estro Armonico,” and featuring four violins

Concerto X In B Minor for Four Violins: Allegro 3:44 Arcangeli Baroque Strings Vivaldi: Six Concertos from L’estro Armonico, Opus 3

10. Part of another concerto for oboe, by Bach. (Oboe is one of the many instruments Bach studied and played.)

Concerto for Oboe in D Minor, BWV 1059: I. Allegro 5:52 Christian Hommel, Cologne Chamber Orchestra, Helmut Müller-Brühl & Lisa Stewart Bach: Concertos for Oboe & Oboe d’amore Classical

11. A concerto for entire string orchestra by the composer Albinoni. He was mainly a singer and violinist but wrote a number of fine oboe works, and some of those are also on this album.

Concerto for Strings in F Major, Op. 9, No. 10: I. Allegro 3:35 Collegium Musicum 90 & Simon Standage Albinoni: Double Oboe Concertos and Concertos for Strings, Vol. 2

12. Below is more Bach, part of a group of pieces for lute.

Suite in E for Lute, BWV 1006a – 1000: I. Praeludium 3:50 Eduardo Fernandez Bach, J.S.: Lute Suites

13. I love the harp, and find it enchanting to listen to as well as calming.

Harp Concerto in C: III. Allegro 3:56 Elizabeth Hainen Harp Concertos

14. Telemann is another famous and prolific Baroque composer. This album features more of Albrecht Mayer and other great soloists.

Triple Concerto in E Major, TWV 53:E1: I. Andante 3:28 Emmanuel Pahud/Berliner Barock Solisten/Wolfram Christ/Albrecht Mayer Telemann Concertos Classical

15. Gabrieli wrote many of these beautiful pieces for groups of brass instruments. He was born in the middle of the 16th century, and was a composer during the time music was moving from the Renaissance style to the Baroque. The Empire Brass is one of the most famous brass ensembles.

Canzon Duo Decimi Toni 3:33 Empire Brass The Glory of Gabrieli (Antiphonal Music for Brass Choirs) Classical

16. A concerto grosso is a piece featuring various solo instruments that alternate with the full orchestra. Many Baroque composers wrote them, and the one below is by Handel, who wrote many great ones. He worked in his native Germany, then Italy, and finally London where he lived for many years and was very much loved and celebrated. He was famous as a landmark opera composer as well.

Concerto grosso in B-Flat Major, Op. 3, No. 1: I. Allegro 2:58 English Chamber Orchestra, Raymond Leppard, Leslie Pearson & John Constable Ultimate Handel Classical

17.  Fasch was a Baroque composer and contemporary of J.S. Bach and Georg Frideric Handel. He’s not as well known as some, but wrote lots of music I was delighted to discover him for myself with the help of our local classical radio station WCRB, here in Boston. He lived from 1688 to 1758 mostly in Germany. The performing group The English Concert and its conductor Trevor Pinnock are both well known and widely respected.

Concerto In D Major FWV L: D. 14: I. Allegro 3:10 The English Concert & Trevor Pinnock Fasch: Concerto and Orchestral Suites Classical

18. Another composer you might not have heard of is William Boyce, an English composer who lived in London during much of the 18th century. Among his best works are church music and a number of symphonies.

Symphony No. 1 In B-Flat: I .Allegro 2:54 English String Orchestra & William Boughton Boyce: The Eight Symphonies

19. The piece below is one movement from a concerto by C.P.E. Bach on an album of his and Mozart’s music. C.P.E. (Carl Philipp Emmanuel) was one of J.S. Bach’s sons, well-taught by his father to follow in Dad’s footsteps. There’s a fascinating essay on the two at  http://www.interlude.hk/front/like-father-like-sonjohann-sebastian-and-carl-philipp-emanuel-bach/

Concerto for 2 Harpsichords, Strings and Horns in F Major, Wq. 46: I. Allegro 9:17 Haydn Sinfonietta Wien, Manfred Huss, Alexei Lubimov & Juri Martynov C. P. E. Bach & Mozart: Double Concerto and Symphonies

20.  “Il Gardellino” is a performance group founded in Belgium. They play a lot of Baroque but also some later music. The Oboe D’amore concerto movement below is by the two 18th-century composers, Carl Heinrich Graun and his brother Johann Gottlieb Graun, again not so well-known to me at least until relatively recently.

Oboe D’amore Concerto In D Major: I. Allegro 6:11 Il Gardellino Graun: Concerti

13. Below is another concerto movement from L’estro armonico by Vivaldi. Iona Brown (1941-2004) was a British conductor and violinist.

12 Concertos, Op. 3, “L’estro armonico”: Allegro assai 3:01 Iona Brown, Sir Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Carmel Kaine, Roy Gillard, Christopher Hogwood, Colin Tilney & Robert Spencer Vivaldi: L’estro armonico

14. A solo harp piece by Carlos Salzedo, “Quietude,” from an album of harp composers. The harpist is Jennifer Swartz

5 Preludes: No. 1. Quietude 2:49 Jennifer Swartz Grandjany – Hindemith – Lizotte – Salzedo – Tailleferre: Solo Harp Music

15. I love trumpet and oboes together in this movement from an album of a group of composers. I chose the piece because I liked it but cannot find a clear composer name on the album. Kehr and Zickler appear to be two of the performers.

16. More trumpet, this time by Telemann. I’ve found some impressive recordings from this group, Latvian Philharmonic.

Trumpet Concerto In D Major, TWV 51:D7: II. Allegro 2:08 Latvian Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra & Pierre Kremer Orchestral Music (Baroque) – Handel, G.F. – Bach, J.S. – Pachelbel, J. – Corelli, A. – Purcell, H. – Vivaldi, A. (Baroque Orchestral Masterpieces)

17. Trumpet and oboe again, in a movement from a set of albums called The Art of the Baroque Trumpet. This double concerto is by Johann Wilhelm Hertel, (1727-1789), again relatively new to me.

Double Concerto In E Flat Major For Trumpet And Oboe: Allegro 4:55 M./Telemann Handel/Haydn The Art Of The Baroque Trumpet, Volume 4

18. An unlikely but beautiful combination of trumpet and organ, from the album The Italian Trumpet.

Concerto en Ol Mineur Pour Trompette Et Orgue: I. Vivace 1:28 Marc-André Doran & André Henry Italian Trumpet (The)

19. A movement from one of my favorite keyboard players, Murray Perahia (pronounce like pariah), part of one of the many celebrated Bach keyboard concertos.

Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in F Minor, BWV 1056: III. Presto 2:58 Murray Perahia, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Jeanne Dolmetsch & Marguerite Dolmetsch Bach: Keyboard Concertos Nos. 3, 5, 6, 7

19. One movement from one of the many beautiful Mozart piano works, Concerto no. 25. The concertos are accompanied by orchestra. Mozart is from the Classical period, which came after the Baroque,

Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503: III. Allegretto 8:38 Orpheus Chamber Orchestra & Richard Goode Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 25 & No. 9

20. Also from the Classical period, a movement from a symphony by Haydn, who wrote many of them.

Symphony in B-Flat, H. I:68: I. Vivace 4:29 Philharmonia Hungarica & Antal Doráti Haydn: The Complete Symphonies

21.  Most of Bach’s oratorios (such as The Messiah) include an overture. This is the beautiful overture to the Easter Oratorio, and the overture is called a “sinfonia” in this case.

Easter Oratorio “Kommt, Eilet Und Laufet”, BWV 249: I. Sinfonia In D Major 4:51 Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra Vienna & Ferdinand Grossmann Bach: Easter Oratorio & Magnificat

22.  “Tafel” music was “table music,” meant to be heard at feasts and banquets. Telemann labeled some of his collections of compositions “Tafelmusik.” This is a movement from one of them. “Basso continuo” means “continuous bass” and is an accompaniment to the solo instruments made up of a bass line and harmonies, usually played on a keyboard and sometimes also on a lower instrument such as the cello.

Tafelmusik, Part 2: no 4, Trio Sonata for Flute, Oboe and Basso Continuo in E minor, TV 42:e2: I. Affetuoso 3:11 Salzburg Chamber Quartet Telemann: Table Music Suite Part 2, No. 4 – Trio in E Minor

23. Another movement of a piece for Oboe D’amore, by Telemann.

Concerto in A Major for Oboe D’amore: II. 3:14 Sarah Francis & London Harpsichord Ensemble Telemann: Oboe Concertos (Vol. 2)

24. Everything these two violinists play on this Vivaldi album by the Venice Baroque Orchestra is dazzling. I’ve put one movement of one of the Vivaldi pieces for two violins here. The violinists are Viktoria Mullova and again Giuliano Carmignola, listed earlier as the performer of a solo piece by Vivaldi.

Concerto for 2 Violins, Strings and Continuo in G Major, R. 516: I. Allegro Molto 3:41 Viktoria Mullova, Andrea Marcon, Venice Baroque Orchestra & Giuliano Carmignola, Vivaldi: Concertos for Two Violins

25. The Marsalis family of musicians is now legendary, and trumpeter Wynton is one of the finest classical trumpeters in the world. I’ve listed a movement below from a concerto by Johann Friedrich Fasch, including Marsalis along with two oboes and string orchestra.

Concerto In D Major for Trumpet, Two Oboes and Strings: I. Allegro 2:06 Wynton Marsalis & Raymond Leppard Wynton Marsalis Plays Handel, Purcell, Torelli, Fasch, and Molter

 

*These come from my longer curated music lists at my service Sonia Music. I’m giving readers this short list as a gift because I want more people to RELAX and get happier and healthier now!

 

 

Classic movies for a good mood

Susan Cooke

If you’re stressed, depressed, or anxious, these movies are a joy and might help. I’ll post more here later as I think of them. I bet you’ve never heard of some of them! I list movie first, then main actor(s):

My Man Godfrey—William Powell & Carole Lombard

The Voice of the Turtle—Eleanor Parker & Ronald Reagan

Lucky Partners—Ginger Rogers and Ronald Coleman

Desk Set—Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy

Vivacious Lady—James Stewart & Ginger Rogers

I Love you Again—William Powell & Myrna Loy

Biography of a Bachelor Girl—Ann Harding, Robert Montgomery & Edward Everett Horton

Hands Across the Table—Carole Lombard

Miranda—Glynis Johns

You’ve Got Mail—Meg Ryan & Tom Hanks

The Runaway Bride—Julia Roberts & Richard Gere

My Big Fat Greek Wedding—Nia Vardalos (& edited by my cousin Mia Goldman!)

When Harry met Sally—Meg Ryan & Billy Crystal

Double Wedding—William Powell & Myrna Loy

The Talk of the Town—Cary Grant, Ronald Colman, Jean Arthur

The Shop Around the Corner—James Stewart & Margaret Sullavan

Never Say Goodbye—Errol Flynn & Eleanor Parker

Easy Living—Jean Arthur, Ray Milland, Edward Arnold

The Devil and Miss Jones—Jean Arthur, Robert Cummings, & Charles Coburn

A Foreign Affair—Jean Arthur, Marlene Dietrich, John Lund

The  Doctor Takes a Wife—Ray Milland & Loretta Young

The More the Merrier—Jean Arthur, Charles Coburn, Joel McCrea

Key to the City— Young & Clark Gable

The Ex-Mrs. Bradford—Jean Arthur & William Powell

More than a Secretary—Jean Arthur & George Brent

Mother is a Freshman—Van Johnson & Loretta Young

Come to the Stable—Loretta Young & Celeste Holm

People will Talk—Cary Grant & Jeanne Crain (only partly a comedy but wonderful)