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Beyond Noise Mitigation: Managing Soundscapes as Common Pool Resources

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Dumyahn, S. L.; Pijanowski, B. C.
Conference: Capturing the Complexity of the Commons, North American Regional Meeting of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Conf. Date: Sep. 30-Oct. 2
Date: 2010
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/6545
Sector: Social Organization
Subject(s): common pool resources
Abstract: "Noise has been regulated as a negative externality of human industry and transportation networks that affect human health and quality of life. The United States enacted the Noise Control Act in 1972 to regulate noise impacts; however, the funding and enactment of this law ceased in 1981. Noise continues to grow and is impacting once quiet locations, such as U.S. National Parks. Following the government control approach to managing resources, the National Park Service (NPS) has supported and created many policies to protect park acoustic environments, or soundscapes. We conducted a survey of NPS managers to determine how noise impacts park soundscapes. The survey showed that a variety of human produced sounds have serious impacts on the quality of visitor experiences and potentially impacts wildlife communication. Using a common pool resource (CPR) model, we describe the multiple soundscape users, difficulty of exclusion and subtractability and degradation of soundscapes. Soundscapes offer a flow of benefits to many people: natural sounds, ecosystem function, cultural and historical heritage, silence or natural quiet, ability to communicate with one another, creating a sense of place, and wellbeing. Rather than viewing noise as only a negative externality to be regulated, we pose the normative argument that the right to a quality soundscape is a right belonging to all. The national parks hold in trust the resources, including soundscapes for this and future generations. We posit that a new institutional approach is needed to manage soundscapes where the norms of all soundscape users are recognized and respected."

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