Thursday, June 26, 2014

Drone Warfare

Technology journalist Tim Stenovec controls a Parrot Minidrone "Rolling Spider" during a demonstration in June in New York.

More and more we hear about the use of drones in warfare, referring to the "unpersoned" aircraft used to carry lethal force against enemies. At times these attacks go terribly wrong and result in the deaths of innocent non-combatants.

There is another "attack of the drones" underway, although less serious. It is the use of small drone aircraft, not unlike model planes. They are being used increasingly to carry cameras of the GoPro variety to take photos and videos in various locales, including national parks in the States. The result is that the parks have officially banned them, realizing that they are giant mechanized mosquitoes which defeat one of the purposes of "getting away from it all." For so many of us the relative solitude and silence of the wilderness are as important as the natural beauty. Here is a portion of a National Parks Service

Unmanned aircraft have already been prohibited at several national parks. These parks initiated bans after noise and nuisance complaints from park visitors, an incident in which park wildlife were harassed, and park visitor safety concerns.In April, visitors at Grand Canyon National Park gathered for a quiet sunset, which was interrupted by a loud unmanned aircraft flying back and forth and eventually crashing in the canyon. Later in the month, volunteers at Zion National Park witnessed an unmanned aircraft disturb a herd of bighorn sheep, reportedly separating adults from young animals.

This is a bit curious because the flyovers of the Grand Canyon by helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft is incessant, although newer aircraft must meet noise reduction standards. I suppose every little bit matters.

There are many who are convinced that the noise of our society is having a profound psychological and spiritual effect on nearly all of us, without our knowing. Virtually every backyard task now has a machine to "aid" in its completion, and while we say we get used to it, it is proven that we don't. Our bodies stay in the alert "fight or flight" mode when we are assaulted by noise. I have mentioned before the excellent book One Square Inch of Silence author, Gordon Hempton, searches, largely in vain, for quiet places in America. Recently he has turned to Canada in his quixotic quest. He is concerned that silence may become "extinct" in the next decade.

I constantly crave silence and solitude. Increasingly I struggle with the noisiness of our human culture. I feel that I less able to hear and experience God in the midst of the racket.

Does anyone else share this feeling? Should churches be providing silence sanctuaries? (We have excellent spaces for this at Bridge St.UC)


roger said...

Yes, I absolutely share that feeling! I crave silence(especially when being asked to do something around the house!).

I used to go camping, however I gave up on that long ago because of the frustrations of having to deal with partying campers(I've had to go to other campsites in the middle of the night to tell them to keep quiet).

On those rare occasions when I'm in a location of complete solitude, I realize how healthy it feels and how my stress levels seem to instantly reduce.

I'll take silence any time!

Frank said...

I remember as a kid returning home from boy scout summer camps, and having to re-adjust to the urban noise outside our house with the windows open (no air conditioning). It took me a couple of nights to start sleeping right through again.
I was told that paroled/released prisoners experience a similar challenge. Their adjustment is one of regimented "noise" (nightly lock down, lights out) with low noise periods through the night.
Seems like silence deprivation might be an important factor in maintaining some sort of healthy balance in our lives.

sjd said...

I too like to get out to the woods to be in a quiet place. To get away from the constant demands of my kids, and the TV, I pods, and video games.
I grew up on a farm, and crave the quiet.
My wife grew up in town, and can't sleep winter or summer unless there is a fan, more recently two fans running. She needs the constant noise.
So I go out to the woods, enjoy the silence for a few minutes, then start the chainsaw and cut fire wood.
Oh boy :)