In the current day and age we see less of nature integrated into the urban surroundings, forming the basis of the new era scientists now call the ‘Anthropocene Epoch’. This article identifies my soundscape and how it has changed over time, partially due to human influence. With reference to academic articles identifying the effect of the Anthropocene and the rise of production. I further sited an interview with elders showing the alteration in nature and added examples of Makoto Azuma, an artist dealing with similar concepts.
Key positions of Anthropocene
As humans we work on a geological scale, however scientists are thinking of changing the system and the way we see the history of the earth and making us live in an a “whole new era” (Gisli 2013:3-5). The Geological scale is a 4 Billion year-long calendar, which is divided into eons, eras, periods, epochs and ages capturing the major environmental changes the earth experiences.
The geological epoch that we’re currently in is called the Holocence, with the span of 11 700 years, beginning when the last major ice age ended- leaving major changes being expressed through the earths rock layers. Scientists however want to add a new chapter to the book of earth’s history, starting from the mid-20th Century, naming it the ”Anthropocene Epoch”, with distinct ways “Mankind” have shaped the world (Steffen 2011-832) . The human impact has been broken up into a simple list of 5 key causes:
- Nuclear weapons (spreading radio-nuclides)
- Fossil Fuels (oil and coal= more carbon dioxide)
- New Materials (Aluminium, concreate, plastic=manmade and not biodegradable)
- Changed Geology (Physically changing surface of the earth: farming, mining, deforestation, dams and modifying coast lines)
- Mass Extinction (5 massive die offs, where species were unable to change to the climate)
With reference to the human impact listed above, these 5 key impacts have greatly changed the way of ecosystems in the modern day and age- threatening the Fauna (animal life) and Flora (plant life) ecosystems. Bringing an increase of man-made structures we tend to isolate the natural world- causing interference with instinctual nature patterns.For more information watch the video by SciShow on human impact.
Over the last two days I’ve kept a soundscape journal of sounds I’ve come into contact with, mainly sounds I tend to ignore, that assist to the Anthropocene. My recordings varied from place to place, then at different times of the day. As a fine art student a lot of my studio space was engaging with man-made machinery. The wheel of the grinding press, the sound of gushing wind through the extractor fans, peers commuting with music played into the background speakers along with the odd phone call and message tone. As the day processes I found the rush of cars fluctuate- 7am and 5pm noise was a constant buzz, I questioned my own sanity wondering how I ever concentrated through the beeps and buzzes of busy commuters. All in all I found most of the sounds came from man-made and used goods, very seldom did I hear the chirps of birds or another wild even domesticated animals in the area of urban development in Pretoria.
With reference to the reading by Whitehouse, he states that “human activities cause ecological and sonic disruptions”, submerging the “animal orchestra”, rendering the world silent from natural sounds and replacing it with sounds that humans have created (Whitehouse 2015:54-56).
Whitehouse talks about the significance of bird sounds and how it emphasises place, time and season in the world around us. In my personal experience in listening to birds over the last 2 days I found it very shocking that at my resistance, I’ve heard almost no birds throughout the day, except briefly in the morning at 5:30am when all human disruption is non-existent.
Even when I’ve travelled to far desolated areas like Botanical Gardens”, just to hear birds and animals-I’m still able to hear a slight buzz in the background of cars or people. This idea is disturbing to me because on an average day of going to varsity, I never hear the sounds of birds: despite the roofs of our visual art building- where we find it more of a nuisance, making sinister jokes about “killing’’ and getting rid of them to preserve our health and art works. We view the birds as an irritation and are okay with the idea of them being disposable and easily replaced. I realise how this needs to change drastically, saving the planet from complete industrial production and sound.
At Varsity and throughout Hatfield I found majority of the bird species are commonly found birds such as pigeons and whoever’s, whereas at home in the smaller suburbs where we feed and cater for birds we have many other species like Grey Louries, Rose-ringed Parakeets, Robins and Indian myna. However the amounts of birds are the same, in both cases there are only a few birds in groups no more than 3 or 4 at a time.
Images of the Grey Lourie and Indian Myna
I found it a weird phenomenon that I link the sounds of birds with the nostalgia of feeding the ducks when I was still in adolescence, and sitting in the garden watching birds at my grandparents’ home. When I was about 5 years of age my grandpa, Vôvô would sit me in the garden for hours making me aware of his relationship with the various birds in the garden. He would further test me on all the sounds and colours of the birds making me get a book, to find the origin and name of every bird I saw. I find this funny because today I have still retained my knowledge but as my interests have changed, I haven’t paid attention to the fact that many of those birds I haven’t seen since I was young. Talking to my parents they speak abundantly of the many birds from just 15 years ago, stating how, ”owls use to be present in our area”, and how there were even cases of eagle spotting’s. Both my parents grew up and spent most of their lives outside the city in KwaZulu-Natal, where “animal interaction’’ was a norm and buck, monkey, snake and bird sighting happened on a day to day basis. My father spoke about when he travelled to Tanzania (North Africa) in 2003, he experienced the most amazing bird sighting. Forests where like “Massive bird parks, but without the fences”, and without any “human disturbance”. My Dad spoke a lot about the African Grey parrots and how free they were in comparison to the captivation of friends’ parrots. After an evening speaking to my parents I’ve become angered and slightly worried to think I’ve never had any first hand encounters with viewing exotic birds. Disturbing me most is how birds are creatures I take for granted, posing the larger thought to the creatures I’m not already aware of, and how they might also be affected.
Makoto Azuma is an artist I found very interesting, he considers himself a bio-artist where he raises awareness of plants and how they interact with the growing human influence and modern day and age. One of my favourite works is “Iced Flowers”,expressing how he comments towards the way humans have altered the environment that plants and animals survive in. For more information about his work visit his site on the added link.
This article identifies what is the Anthropocene Echos and how the interference of human production has shaped the world we know today through the 5 key human influences. With personal and academic reference I was able to create my own soundscape reflection on my daily sounds then directly focusing on birds. This article concludes with an interview with my parents showing how my own sounds of constant noise and city buzz is a new evolvement and the interaction between flora and fauna is becoming greater. My bird interaction has become nothing more than a memory and is having an effect on the earth that I am still beginning to comprehend.
⊗ Create your own Soundscape and leave a comment to see how different countries and environments have their differences.
AMKK. 2015. Sustainable solutions to South Africa’s waste challenges. [O] Available: http://azumamakoto.com/?p=5421
Accessed: 09 April 2016
Gisli, P et al. 2013. Reconceptualizing the ‘Anthropos’ in the Anthropocene: integrating the social sciences and humanities in global environmental change research. Environmental Science & Policy 28:3-13.
SciShow. 2016. 5 Ways Humans Have Changed The Earth. [O]
Accessed: 09 April 2016
Steffen, W et al. 2011. The Anthropocene: conceptual and historical perspectives. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 369:842-867.
Waters, CN et al. 2016. The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene. Science 351(6269):[sp].
Whitehouse, A. 2015. Listening to birds in the Anthropocene: the anxious semiotics of sound in a human-dominated world. Environmental Humanities 6:53-71.