I write to express my concern, along with that of a significant number of my friends, about the perpetual problem of noise pollution over the Penn Cove area, caused by the “practice runs,” which continue, in spite of promises by those in charge, to stop by 11 p.m.
We understand that these practice runs are necessary in order for pilots to prepare themselves for landings on carriers on the high seas, which can be far more precarious than landing on terra firma. It is obvious that these practice runs are necessary just as basketball players must practice their shots so that their muscle memory knows its part and can function when the pressure is on.
We also understand that in military matters, decisions are made at the apex of the pyramid of authority, and that these decisions do not just trickle down. It is more like the domino effect. When one domino falls against another, the chain reaction is continued all the way. We understand that in military matters, decisions must be made from the top down.
There is however, an alternative dynamic. Authority can start at ground level and ascend toward the top. It is the authority of people who have logged their seniority of good citizenship most of whom have lived here long enough to establish “squatter’s sovereignty.” There are also those who have migrated to this environment because of the favorable climate, the picturesque scenery, and the comparative absence of pollution.
There is, however, another form of pollution which becomes a challenge. It is the pollution of noise. Many of us have escaped from the smog and the sweat of big cities, only to encounter a form of pollution which is far more nerve shattering than smog, namely, the pollution of sound. It not only deprives us of our concentration if we want to read, our silence if we want to pray, our conversation if we want to visit, but it deprives us of our only sanctuary, the sanctuary of sleep.
The decision to fly jets overhead far into the night has been made at the peak of the pyramid of power and it doesn’t just trickle down, it charges like an electric current, all the way to the base.
The only counterforce to the thundering herd in the sky, to the reverberations that cause the trees to tremble, is a higher authority, which in this case is a lower authority, that of the grassroots, which reminds the top-down authority that it is at the beck and call of another authority, that of the interrupted sleep that “knits up the raveled sleeve of care,” the abbreviated conversation, the unspoken prayer, the unfinished symphony and don’t forget the student who needs to get his/her homework done, or the extra inning ball game.
Somewhere there must be a halfway house where we can meet and discuss our mutual and collective concerns. Rarely is one side always right. Surely there is a solution waiting behind the “wings,” for all of us. Could it be changing the flight schedules? Could it be moving the flights 40 miles out to sea? Are stealth planes off the map? What about 6 a.m.? It would wake us all up.
Darrel E. Berg
United Methodist minister (retired)