In search of Silence

December 14, 2020

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Silence is difficult to justify in our current world. Technology has advanced to such an extent that we are constantly in action. If you open your ears and listen, you will always notice some noise at any time of the day. Traffic, a crowd, the chatter of a conversation, phones ringing… There is always sound. Even at night, when most people consider it to be “quiet” or when the whole country goes into lockdown with curfew, there is always a surprising amount of noise.

The more technologically advanced we become, the less quiet the world around us became. Every sound has a purpose. The TV in the background ensures that you don’t feel alone. Music in your back pocket will get you through any mood. Your phone pinging means someone needs you and so on. And that’s a problem.

Excessive noise has been shown to seriously damage our health. for example, correlations have been found between chronic noise sources such as highways and airports and high blood pressure. Something that in turn can lead to other health problems such as damage to our brain and kidneys.

Other studies have found links between noise and sleep loss, heart disease and tinnitus. People who live in constantly noisy places also often have elevated levels of stress hormones.

However unnatural or unusual the absence of sound feels, it was once the natural state of our world and of us humans.

This information led us to the question of whether there is still room for silence in our modern, techno-noisy, urbanized society. Is there still silence to be found in Belgium and especially in Flanders?

Waerbeke VZW

The search for Silence in Flanders brought us to Waerbeke VZW.

Waerbeke promotes and supports the integration of silence in all areas of society.

Waerbeke responds to the need for a broad, social movement that connects the many initiatives around silence, peace and space. They also help develop them in a sustainable way. These initiatives also include the preservation and development of natural sanctuaries in Flanders.

About natural Sanctuaries

Natural Sanctuaries are areas that are protected because they are uniquely quiet and peaceful. Silence here does not mean the absence of sound, but rather a wonderful collection of natural sounds of fauna and flora.

Some municipalities and provinces want to pursue an active silence policy. They can confirm this with a quality label ‘ Natural Sanctuary’. Based on a number of criteria, such an area receives a rating from one to three stars.

Water walk between Dender and Mark
Source: The Helix Department environment

On October 30, 2001, the municipalities of Galmaarden, Geraardsbergen and Ninove, the provinces of East Flanders and Flemish Brabant and the Flemish government signed a collaboration around the Dender-Mark Sanctuary. As a result of this pilot project, Waerbeke emerged as a socio-cultural movement that raises the issue of silence, tranquility and space in society.

The Dender-Mark Quiet Area was the first of the 10 official Natural Sanctuaries in Flanders. The following areas also received the Natural Sanctuary quality label.

Slow down in the Silence of nature

In our fast-paced, techno-loud world, we find ourselves in an almost constant twisted state and more than ever we need protected natural areas to slow down and unwind. When you take the noise stress out of your life, even if only for a moment. It gives your instinctual “fight-or-flight” response a chance to rest. your heart rate starts to slow down, your blood pressure drops and your blood circulation improves.

Once the noise causing the stress has been removed and you finally relax in silence, your body is free to do what it normally would and can rebalance itself.

A lot of benefits that we are happy to facilitate, because we believe, just like Waerbeke VZW, that silence works. That is why, this year, for every Slow Cabins Voucher of at least € 185, € 10 will go to the preservation and development of Sanctuaries in Belgium in collaboration with Waerbeke Vzw.

So you don’t just surprise your loved one (s) with a well-deserved corona break. You also actively contribute to a natural environment in which you and thousands of other people can rediscover silence today and tomorrow.

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