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Ocean Noise: Is Human Activity Raising Volume In 'Silent' Underwater World?

A 10-year UNESCO investigation is being launched to measure the effects of human noise pollution on marine creatures, many of which rely on relative silence to find food, seek out mates or avoid predators.

Worldcrunch NEWSBITES

PARIS – The planet's great oceans – sometimes referred to as the "silent world" – are noisier than we thought. And they're only getting louder. Not only do their inhabitants – marine mammals, but also fish and crustaceans – squeak, click and moan, not only does the sound of rain and the tumult of collapsing icebergs travel very well through water, but more importantly, human activities have increased significantly in recent decades, and could one day become deafening for marine species.

A team of international researchers brought together last week by the Paris-based United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) admitted it was hard to evaluate exactly how threatening the situation is. There are no base measurements, for example, detailing noise levels before the oil and gas industry, off-shore wind farms and jet-skis appeared. Yet it seems clear the environment is changing – and quickly – as increased industrialization turns up the volume in the oceans, posing a possible threat to many marine species that rely mainly on sound to find food, seek out mates or avoid predators.

The team's objective was to establish the grounds for a decade-long program called the International Quiet Ocean, which will involve international cooperation.

"Until now, most oceanic studies did not focus on the effects of underwater noise on marine mammals," admitted one of the events co-chairmen, Ian Boyd from the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland. "We don't want to bring human activities in the planet's oceans to a halt. But we want to know how to manage them better. Our program will involve informing and advising the public. And if the study happens to show that the impact of underwater industrial noise on marine species is inconsequential, we won't hesitate to say it."

Growing evidence, however, suggests there are indeed consequences to rising underwater noise levels. World container ship, bulk carrier, tanker, ocean liner and ferry traffic has doubled since 1995, while the number of tourists going on leisure cruises has been multiplied by four. And there's also the question of offshore mining, offshore wind farms, desalination facilities, ports, artificial islands.

Enough for the team of specialists to wonder about the amount of order or chaos that will preside over tomorrow's so-called silent world.

Read the full story in French by Martine Valo

Photo - Rachel Elaine

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Why The Political Left In Poland Is So Perennially Weak

For years, Poland’s political scene has been dominated by divisions between the centrist Civic Platform (PO) and the conservative ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS). Now, on the eve of national elections, a far-right party Konfederacia is also rising. Where is the progressive left in Polish politics?

Photo of a Lewica ("Left") meeting in Warsaw, Poland, with a flag from the left-wing party in focus while members of the crowd and participants are out of focus

At a Lewica ("Left") meeting in Warsaw, Poland

Ziemowit Szczerek


The latest results of the United Surveys poll for Polish news website wp.pl were divided between the current ruling party, the Catholic right-wing Law and Justice (PiS), which is supported by 33.8% of Polish voters, closely followed by the centrist opposition coalition, KO, currently trailing behind at 28.1%. The far-right Konfederacja, running on a free-market, nationalist platform, is in third place, with the support of 8.8% of voters. Only 8.7% of Polish voters are presently expected to turn out for the Left.

With neither of the two major parties expected to gain a majority in Parliament, Poland’s political future may well be determined by smaller parties who could form a ruling coalition with either of the two. Currently, Konfederacja’s success has caused worry from opponents who fear the ruling party’s potential alliance with the potential emerging kingmaker, which has expressed controversial anti-Ukrainian, antisemitic and ultra-nationalist viewpoints.

Though not unique in the ranks of post-communist countries, many of which have also been wary of venturing into what they believe to be better left to the historical past, journalist and author Ziemowit Szczerek argues that, with a realigned message and greater attention to common causes, the political Left could have a fighting chance in a country that has been under right-wing rule since 2015.

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