Oct 14, 2020

How the Pandemic Is Teaching Us to Listen to Nature

Chris Watson on location in Costa Rica, during a shoot for the BBC documentary The Green Planet (Photo: Dr. Patrick Avery)
Chris Watson on location in Costa Rica, during a shoot for the BBC documentary The Green Planet

One of the defining aspects of modern life is our inability to hear the sounds of nature due to noise pollution. But since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, people across the world have remarked that they’re hearing birds and other creatures more clearly than ever before. This includes professional listeners like Chris Watson, the legendary field recordist who for decades has captured the sounds of wildlife heard in David Attenborough’s films, including The Green Planet, which will premier in 2022. As Watson points out, the moment noise pollution stops, the problem goes away. But this period of relative global silence we’re experiencing right now is temporary, and something we should all take advantage of. “Most of our time, in much of our lives, we spend time blocking out sound simply to get through the day,” he says. But if we open our ears, “We can easily train ourselves to be good listeners.”   

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Outside’s longstanding literary storytelling tradition comes to life in audio with features that will both entertain and inform listeners. We launched in March 2016 with our first series, Science of Survival, which was developed in partnership with PRX, distributors of the idolized This American Life and The Moth Radio Hour, among others. We have since expanded our show and now offer a range of story formats, including interviews with the biggest figures in sports, adventure, and politics, as well as reports from our correspondents in the field.