HEAR that? Do you hear that?
A leaf blower, son. Nothing else in the world sounds like that. I love the sound of a leaf blower early in the morning. Sounds like victory. By the time the strike force finishes the car park and the footpath in a 7am surprise attack, there isn't a leaf to be seen.
For a minute or two . . . but where there are deciduous trees, there'll be leaves waiting to mess up the place. Leaves on the ground are nature's unmade bed. And where there are leaves on cement, it's quite likely a petrol rake will soon fire up.
Their operators - nice as many of them are in other aspects of neighbourly consideration - tend to go early, go often, and go hard.
But petrol leaf blowers are on the nose. And not just because of an intoxicating combination of oil and petrol. An operator of a two-stroke leaf blower may experience noise at around 100 decibels of low-frequency, wall-penetrating sound - or almost as much noise as a plane taking off - at levels that can cause tinnitus and hearing loss over long periods of exposure.
Health authorities and work safety specialists generally recommend ear protection for those exposed to noise beyond 85 decibels, but even half a footy field away the decibels from a leaf blower can be in the mid-60s. Sorry, what was that?
Newcastle Ward two Greens candidate Charlotte McCabe has called on Newcastle council to switch to adopt all renewable devices by 2030.
"From the mowers and whipper-snippers to the garbage trucks, all council's petrol- and diesel-fuelled vehicles, plant and equipment will need to be replaced with renewable alternatives as they reach the end of their productive lives," she said.
Her campaign promise reflects a push in other parts of the world to switch away from petrol-and-diesel small off-road engines (SOREs) to battery-powered operations. But other places are transitioning with a sense of urgency.
Last month, California's governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order banning the sale of petrol-powered leaf blowers, as well as any other equipment using SOREs. The new law means it will be prohibited to sell any SORE product made after July 1, 2024, in the state of California.
Newsom's law requires all SORE gear used for landscaping and lawn care to be zero-emission - essentially to be battery-operated or plug-in - by that target date or sooner if deemed feasible by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
The law applies to any engine that produces less than 25 gross horsepower, and even includes golf carts, generators, and pumps. Dirt-bikes are exempt.
SOREs are a significant contributor to carbon emissions and air pollution. According to the CARB, one hour of operation of that state's best-selling commercial leaf blower emits smog-forming pollution similar to that caused by driving a 2017 Toyota Camry about 1800 kilometres.
Sure, if leaf blower noise is the biggest difficulty one faces in life, there's little sympathy to be found in the court of public opinion. But beyond the noise, petrol-powered lawn care SOREs emit toxins linked to cancers, heart disease, and asthma. Leaf-blowers also erode topsoil and send pollen, fertilisers, and herbicides into the air. Bugs and worms - all part of the circle of life - get their own category five cyclone regularly if the leaf blower's owner is obsessive.
But if leaf blowers are loud, people speaking out about their dislike of leaf blowers might be getting even louder. More than 100 cities and towns in the US now either ban petrol-powered leaf blowers or regulate their usage.
Last July, Sydney citizen action group Bondi Beach Precinct had a Greens councillor provide a notice of motion to Waverley council calling for the banning of leaf blowers and other petrol-powered tools.
Rather than banning them, the council has provided guidelines for the use of leaf-blowers - please don't use before 8am and after 8pm on Sundays and public holidays and/or before 7am and after 8pm on any other day.
Guidelines aren't fines. And Aussies will always do what they have always done regarding suggestions from others. If there is not a fine attached and the suggestion isn't an enforced law, the whinging neighbour can lump it or move.
Look at signage ignoring dog owners in Newcastle around our beaches, where fines are as rare as unicorn poop.
Why would one even consider using brooms or rakes when one can create the sound of victory early in the morning?
Start your engines - early and often. No one can do nothin'.
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