by Ted Rueter
November 5, 2011
Statement of Ted Rueter
Founder and Director
Noise Free America
To be published in a forthcoming book by The Last Responders
In 2001, I was teaching political science at the University of California, Los Angeles. I found UCLA to be the loudest college campus I had ever been at, and Los Angeles to be the loudest city I had even been to.
The audio assault was constant—from leaf blowers, jack hammers, loud car stereos, back-up beepers, airplanes, motorcycles, cars, video arcades, car alarms, barking dogs, and sirens. There was also a constant pounding from garbage trucks, weed whackers, sidewalk sweepers, honking horns, and store “background music.” All the noise drove me crazy. I could not take it. I did not want to live this way. I remember sitting in my car at a UCLA parking lot, screaming, “I hate it here!”
I decided to take action. I was teaching a class called “Political Advocacy and Activism.” Walking to class one day, I decided it was time to either do something or stop complaining. So I recruited a group of 14 students to work on reducing the clamor on campus. We called ourselves “Noise Free UCLA.” We did a petition drive. We launched a web site. We wrote a 14-page letter to the Chancellor, listing 44 sources of unnecessary noise on campus.
Happily, the Chancellor was receptive. He ordered three of his top aides to meet with us. As a result of our efforts, the UCLA administration agreed to move many of its landscaping functions to the weekends, preserving a little peace and sanity during the week. We achieved a small victory. We then held a Los Angeles “noise summit,” with representatives from neighborhood, community, and environmental groups.
The activism bug had hit. I decided to create a national organization, to fight for Americans’ right to peace and quiet. I formed the group on a wing and a prayer, without a business plan, any partners, or any source of funding.
We grew very quickly, through the web site, word of mouth, and through media publicity. We started issuing a monthly “Noisy Dozen” award, spotlighting a particularly noisy community, business, industry, or individual. These press releases have generated a great deal of press attention, which has put additional pressure on the police and local governments to take action. Stories about Noise Free America have appeared in Time magazine, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, and many others. I have written op-eds for The Los Angeles Times. I have appeared on “20/20,” CNN, and NPR to discuss noise, as well as local, national, and international radio talk shows. I have given speeches to community, civic, and university groups.
We have other methods of reaching the public. We have more than 50 local chapters in around 25 states, which conduct petition drives, organize community meetings, and lobby local officials. We have an online discussion group with several hundred members. We have a quarterly newsletter. We have two noise control engineers (“Ask an Expert”), who offer free advice to the public on technical means of noise reduction. We offer advice to scores of local, state, and federal policymakers. We have a You Tube page. We have produced and distributed three radio public service announcements on noise. We have written a policy paper calling for reestablishment of the federal noise pollution control office. We have an “Action Center,” with sample letters and petitions, success stories, and a manual on “How to Fight Noise.” We are having an impact on noise enforcement and policy.
All of this takes funding. Noise Free America has received donations from hundreds of small donors and a number of large donors. We sent quarterly fundraising appeals and have Pay Pal on our web site. Also, Noise Free America has an “affinity credit card” through Card Lab Connect, whereby a small portion of a person’s credit card purchases go to our organization. Finally, we are seeking major donations from billionaires who have pledged to donate at least half their fortune.
We have great plans for the future. We’ve just launched a blog and a Twitter feed. We will soon launch a Facebook page. We are applying for grants from foundations, corporations, and government agencies, to promote quiet products, establish a national noise “help desk” program, train local anti-noise activists, and conduct a massive public relations campaign against noise.
In 2001, noise pollution was not on the national agenda. In 2011, it is.
Reducing noise levels is good for human beings and other living creatures. Peace and quiet is good for your community. Peace and quiet is good for your health. Peace and quiet is good for your soul.
Working on Noise Free America has been the largest challenge of my life. It has also been the most fulfilling experience of my life. I greatly enjoy assisting noise victims with their problems. I take great satisfaction in helping local anti-noise activists organize in their communities. I am always very happy when a state or local government passes a strong new anti-noise ordinance.
Keep hope alive. Stand up for what’s right. One person can make a difference. Respect the quiet.