Noise-Free Environmental Governance and Smart Cities


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It is urgent to adopt environmental governance programs for noise monitoring and noise pollution control, given the context for smart, healthy, and sustainable cities, aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

This new public policy should value a new model of environmental and eco-humanistic urbanism, with urban eco-design, that is, more humane cities that prioritize human life and environmental quality, and environmental health. Cities for people, in the words of urban planner Jan Gehl. It is essential to overcome the mechanistic and noisy model behind classical urbanism. We need environmental management to commit to total quality, with the adoption of acoustic environmental quality standards, rules, and procedures. One of the indicators of quality of life is the acoustic environmental quality. Thus, the new urbanism must have human life, environmental quality and health, and the protection from noise of people with cognitive and auditory neurodiversity as its top priority.

City management must promote the values of acoustical environmental education, acoustical environmental sustainability, the principle of acoustical efficiency, and value the right to the soundscape of the natural environment. Also, it must consider principles of environmental ethics (noise polluters cause harm to people and disrespect several fundamental rights: right to life, right to health, right to work, right to rest, right to well-being, right to a culture of quietness, right to property and housing, right to the inviolability of the home) and environmental contamination and aesthetics (noise causes the ugliness of the acoustic landscape and causes the environment to become dirty and toxic. And environmental governance should promote participatory environmental citizenship to address noise pollution, including incentive programs for citizens to access acoustic monitoring technologies in citizenship and science programs. Urban management must also incorporate the technological innovations for environmental monitoring of noise in cities. There are several technologies available: artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, acoustic radar, 3D noise maps, acoustic cameras, and others. There is also an urgent need to accelerate sustainable mobility programs, with incentives for electric vehicles.

 There is an urgent need to incorporate electric buses into the public transportation system, as these contribute to eliminating air and noise pollution. Electric buses benefit the passengers, who have their rights to quality public service respected, and the urban areas surrounding the bus lines, which are currently degraded due to air and noise pollution. The principle of the prohibition of environmental regression demands ambitious targets to accelerate electric bus programs. Also, the principles of insufficient protection by the government of fundamental rights, especially the right to the city, quality of life, and environmental quality. Public policy with unreasonable and disproportionate goals may be subject to constitutional review due to the government’s omission to adopt more reasonable deadlines to solve an urgent situation in the cities. Above all, wealthier cities must have ambitious targets for tackling climate change and global warming. The cities’ so-called “green branding” must incorporate bold goals to control noise pollution. For example, area residential area contaminated by noise pollution caused by the public transportation system has the risk of property devaluation.

There are even methods for pricing the devaluation of real estate caused by environmental pollution. Another aspect to be considered is better regulation of urban traffic, considering the acoustic environmental dimension. This is why speed reduction measures are needed in predominantly residential areas. And still, on the aspect of urban policy, it is key to define areas of urban quietness, with maximum environmental protection against the noise of polluting agents. Another point to note in environmental governance is the demand for anti-noise taxation, that is, the use by local governments of anti-noise environmental taxes. Thus, to make the polluter-pays principle effective, some noise-polluting sectors can be the target of the environmental taxes: the construction equipment industry, construction companies, gardening service providers, the gardening equipment industry, condominiums, service providers for condominiums, public passenger transit system companies, owners and/or drivers of motorcycles, cars, and trucks, among others.  In addition, some acoustically polluting equipment should be banned by local governments, such as gardening equipment like leaf blowers, brush cutters, and pruners, among others. Another point is the demand for new urban environmental zoning to abide by the principle that forbids environmental regression. According to the World Health Organization, noise above fifty (50) decibels is a health risk factor. Therefore, local governments must urgently engage to overcome the current toxic and insane status quo of noise and polluter permissiveness, in a state of impunity. Environmental policy needs to be more energetic, with preventive and repressive measures, to reduce noise in cities. Measures to eliminate, reduce and isolate noise are urgently needed.

Finally, dear reader, you can participate in the anti-noise movement in your city by presenting complaints, suggestions, and requests for information to the proper authorities, and demanding responsible attitudes from polluters, so that we can overcome these illegal, irresponsible, anti-social, insane, and environmentally unsustainable behaviors.

Ericson Scorsim. Lawyer and Public Law Consultant Ph.D. in Law from the University of São Paulo (USP). Founder of the Noise-Free Environmental Monitor Association. Author of the ebook Noise-Free Movement for Smart, Healthy and Sustainable Cities (Movimento Antirruídos para cidades inteligentes, saudáveis e sustentáveis), Curitiba, author’s edition, Amazon, 2022, and the ebook Smart, Healthy and Sustainable Condominiums (Condomínios inteligentes, saudáveis e sustentáveis), Curitiba, author’s edition, Amazon, 2023.

Ericson M. Scorsim

Advogado e Consultor em Direito da Comunicação. Doutor em Direito pela USP. Autor da Coleção Ebooks sobre Direito da Comunicação com foco em temas sobre tecnologias, internet, telecomunicações e mídias.