Are more planes the sign of a booming economy, or a burden for health?

There are a lot of items on the news recently, about airplanes and CO2 tax. One of the topics that one hears a lot less about these days, is the noise impact of airplanes. It seems as if the whole climate and environmental debate is reduced to CO2, whereas there are many important topics that require our attention. Now that the WHO considers noise overdose as an important health risk, I would like to include noise into the green debate. Just as I was thinking about it – while eating a lovely spaghetti on the terrace outside my house – I heard some planes flying over relatively low every couple of minutes. Now, one might think that I am exaggerating when looking at the featured image on this post (the plane is at A, not at B), but do listen to the recording below, and conclude for yourself what the noise of a plane does to nature. The plane on the recording is a little spot on the middle of the recording. See if you can see it – you can hear it loud and clear.


Now I do live some distance away from Zaventem (Brussels Airport), although I tend to call my little home town Brussels-West now and then. I live at the left side of the map screen shot, whereas Zaventem is at the right of this screen shot. It is still some 60 km driving to the airport. The planes, however, start descending somewhere over the North Sea, and they cannot be ignored even that far from the airport. During last weekend, the air traffic was much less noisy, since the planes were much higher in the sky – all depends on the wind direction and the flight schedules, for the air traffic control to decide what routes to follow. You can see what routes they are flying in some apps.


The question now is, how can I be against the noise of air planes, when, already tomorrow, I am flying to the other side of Europe – again. It is quite a difficult balancing act, to want a booming economy and yet try to create a healthy environment. Honestly, I do not know the right answer right now. My first impression is that a more uniform tax system over all kinds of transport modi, and which would include not only CO2 but also the noise health risk as part of the calculation, would quickly lead to a first level of balancing towards train and other kinds of public transport, as well as towards fully-automatic-guided electric cars (without that silly warning sound system the EU has introduced recently). That might not only reduce the inner-city and inner-country CO2-levels, but also the noise levels in crowded and busy countries like Belgium.

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