How to do a poll on the level of appreciation of animals of human loud music festivals in public parks and if needed to take appropriate measures? As policy change can be slow, I just designed a set of earmuffs for the rabbits of the Amsterdam Oosterpark (as they have an extreme sensitive hearing apparatus)
The ‘partying nation’ Holland will not fail to use any occasion to throw a public manifestation of leisurely fun which, since ubiquitous cheap electronic sound amplifying devices have become available, means lots of noise enhanced by lots of drinks. One of the favorite venues for these undertakings is the Amsterdam Oosterpark which recently hosted a festival called ‘Appelsap‘ (apple juice) organized by a bunch of friends, all hip hop aficionados, which was certainly not non-alcoholic, with Heineken as one of the main sponsors. “THE best) Dutch hiphop-events. In the beautiful Oosterpark we take hiphop back to its roots”, reads their web site. Lots of fun for sure: out, proud & loud … but what about … the roots of the park and what makes up its innate beauty?
This a one of the many Youtube renderings of the recent Appelsap hiphop event in the Oosterpark, the sound must have been so loud and/or the recording equipment may have had no special dimming switch, because the sound track is totally overmodulated, so rejoice the noise….
This spring a local city councilman Martin Verbeet (of the social-democrat party/PvdA) made an attempt at restoring the park to its “historic function” by banning all alcohol usage within the park confines. This measure was aimed primary at full-time alcoholics, a species that traditionally congregrates in public parks (can be seen all over the world). In fact the alcohol-habit people disturb not too much and even give a certain security by their daylong presence on the park benches withholding more badly inclined park visitors from trespassing upon non-assertive park dwellers. Side effect of this zealous municipal policy was that local inhabitants who like to have a nice drink with their picnic would also fall under the new alcohol ban. Apart from the feared diaspora of debased alcoholics onto the doorsteps of the neighboring streets, the new regulation had a surprising exception paragraph for major events like Queens-day (the 30th of April, a Dionysian national bacchanal in the Netherlands). Who knows if beer-multinational Heineken has been lobbying, or it could have been the feared loss of votes from the partying minded masses, within a few weeks the zero-alcohol-in-the-park campaign was withdrawn by the local council. Some park visitors regret this sudden retreat and signal that the group of drinkers can get so big that certain people feel menaced and do not dare to pass the drinkers benches….
Fellow councillors of other parties have been mocking the zero-alcohol measures of their colleague Verbeet (chairman of the local council), some (D66 party members) even have held an illegal demonstrative drinking party, the local daily newspaper Het Parool wrote negatively about the alcohol ban, and members of Verbeet his own party choose not to support him on this topic. A personal démasqué for Martin Verbeet, but maybe some of the good intentions of the councillor may have been overlooked. In november last year the local party fraction of the social democrats made a research on the functioning of the Oosterpark (102 respondents, 81 on-line inquiry, 21 written reactions/ street interviews) and it must have been upon the outcome of this small research that the zero-alcohol measures have been decided.
There is a lot of moaning in the bare 13 pages of this report from gays that frequent the bushes for back to nature outdoor sex, to the obligatory complaints about dog shit, befouling humans, public toilets, unleashed dogs and dog fights, mopeds and bicycles on pedestrian ways … Surprising is that – apart from dogs – animals are hardly mentioned in the report, or it must be the escaped or freed green parakeets that some people hold to be a nuisance and of course the arch enemies of any human: the rats who criss cross the park at will. Geese, moor-hens, swans and herons are taken for granted, rabbits remain unnoticed and I am sure that a tiny corner of the arch of Noah should be reserved for other more discrete park inhabitants that have managed to escape our attention.
Noise nuisance, sound pollution if you want, is mentioned by several interviewees, especially late night drumming, screaming and other forms of rambunctious behavior. There is also a positive approach to the park, an attempt to formulate what it can or should be, as shown in the following statistic.
Again animals are only implicitly represented in the report as part of the “green lung of the town” or the “oasis of tranquility”, though tranquility may for some people exclude even the communication of birds. There are known instances of deportations – organized by a team of city-biologists – of whole troops of geese whose claxoning was found to be unbearable by human city dwellers. Which tempts me to deviate to the somewhat reversed subject of birds dialoguing with the city sounds of ambulances and car alarms (I do have at times whistling conversations with birds that reside in the tree across my kitchen window). This to emphasis that an insight in the animal experience of human sound production and its cornucopia of amplifying devices is very much needed. What are they doing when there is an influx of a rock, hiphop or jembee drums? Are they fleeing? Hiding? Creeping deep in a hole safely below the roots of a tree? Do they leave the park forever after yet another blast-out? Just play the Appelsap Youtube video once again and let your imagination work. When the hiphoppers speak about roots, let me do so so as well:
What then,was the idea of having a city park? Bringing nature -in an organized human format – into the city? Giving the experience of a garden to those who did not have one? Breathing fresh air? A practicing ground for civic behavior? A place to show yourself and your family if you were wealthy enough? A way to get some understanding of nature – for alienated city dwellers? Or is all that totally out of fashion and should we better think about a dropping-ground for children, a jogging parcours, a skaters circuit, a music esplanade, a juvenile hang-out, a cruising area, a chill-out spot? Is there any possibility to fuse modern city culture with its apparent need for loud sounds and mass audiences with an ecological attitude that can be branded ‘modern’ as well? Can these two practices be reconciled at all? Might it be an idea to get as aware of people’s “noise habits” as we are of people’s “drinking habits?”